The Miami Heat have been, in the words of Dan Patrick, en fuego. Winners of seven straight, Miami is 25-17 and in first place in the Southeast Division and fourth overall in the Eastern Conference. During their current run the Heat have beaten four teams that currently sit in playoff position. This is a welcome turnaround from the abysmal start last year, winning close games against solid competition. Let’s take a look at the road ahead for Miami leading up to All-Star weekend which begins February 16th.
Miami begins a five game road trip on Monday afternoon when they face the Chicago Bulls, followed by games at Milwaukee, Brooklyn, and Charlotte. The Heat will finish the swing with a tough game at Houston January 22nd. Chicago has played much better of late and with the return of Zach Levine are poised to give Miami trouble, especially on the second night of a back-to-back. Miami just defeated the Bucks on Sunday 97-79 and will need a similar defensive effort to end up in the win column. Brooklyn and Charlotte are two very winnable games, but Houston won’t be so easy, especially if James Harden returns from injury as expected.
If the Heat can at least win three out of five on the road, this will set them up nicely to finish out January. When the Heat return home they will have two games against Sacramento and Charlotte, Miami should be able to take care of business in both games. To close out the month the Heat will face Dallas and Cleveland on the road. The Cavaliers have really struggled of late and are only one game ahead of Miami in the standings, this game will be a real measuring stick for where Miami stands in the East.
The Heat will open February still on the road with two tough games at Philadelphia and Detroit. Miami needs to stay hungry and consistent on the road, the stretch in late January and early February can put the team in a great position going into the second half of the season. After Detroit, the Heat have five games remaining before the break, including three straight at home. Miami kicks off the short home stand February 5th against Orlando, followed by Houston and Milwaukee. Then they return to the road with a back-to-back at Toronto and Philadelphia.
Miami has positioned themselves very well in the East and will need to win the games they are expected to in order to maintain their place in the standings. With a lot of time on the road against tough teams, this will be easier said than done. The Heat have lost Dion Waiters for the year due to pending ankle surgery, and coach Erik Spoelstra will have to keep the team focused and prepared to avoid any letdowns. After an 11-30 start last year, Miami is in much better shape so far in the 2017-18 season. In their seven game streak, they have eclipsed 100 points five times. The return of Hassan Whiteside has solidified the middle of the floor on both ends, and the emergence of Josh Richardson has given the team a huge lift. Wayne Ellington has been lighting it up from beyond the arc, and the steady hand of Goran Dragic has put the team in position to succeed.
The Miami Heat have 16 games left until the All-Star Break. Even if Miami only wins half of those, going 8-8, they will still be 33-25 and will have seven of their first ten games after the break at home. Heat Nation should be very pleased with the development of the younger players such as Richardson and Bam Adebayo, along with the supplemental players like Kelly Olynyk. The main key for Miami is to take care of the basketball, they have won the turnover battle more lately including in four of their last seven wins. Miami is getting back to their roots on the defensive end, currently ranking fourth in the NBA allowing only 101.4 points per game. Going back to when Pat Riley was coach, Heat Culture was built on suffocating defense and extreme effort. Add in timely shooting and ball security, the Heat are formulating a recipe for a playoff run.
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