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5 Toughest Games for Miami Heat on Updated Schedule

The new schedule is out….

And it’s no picnic.

All but one of the eight opponents is a playoff team, since many of what were supposed to be the Heat’s remaining games got wiped off the slate when those teams are not invited to Orlando.

Here they are, the top 5 toughest….

 

5. Oklahoma City Thunder

The Miami Heat will be playing the Oklahoma City Thunder on August 12th in the NBA’s resumed season. The Heat got the win against the Thunder in late January, but it wasn’t easy. They are sometimes referred to as the Heat of the west, since both teams were overlooked and a surprise to the league. Oklahoma City has the perfect blend of veterans and young players behind their leadership in Chris Paul and talented youth in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Their a tough match-up for the Heat because of the guard depth on the team. Miami’s weakness is not having a good defensive back-court. This will be a gritty and tough match-up for the Heat since they always seem to give it their all on the floor.

4. Denver Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets got the win at the beginning of the season against Miami. It was one of the worst games for the Heat this season and was definitely one of Bam Adebayo’s worst games as well. Nikola Jokic is a player that seems to give trouble to almost anybody he faces, especially with his ability to stretch the floor. The depth of this team is something that not only could give the Heat major trouble, but also for whoever they face in the playoffs. They now have some experience under the belts, which may not be a big deal for the way these playoffs will be presented. Either way, the Miami Heat will have their hands full on the defensive side of the ball with the talented players that are on this roster.

3. Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors will be the second game of Miami’s updated schedule and will definitely be a good one. Toronto is another one of those teams that were a surprise this season after the departure of their star Kawhi Leonard. The Heat played the Toronto Raptors twice this season and came away with the win in both. This doesn’t mean to take this team lightly. They have fire power across the whole roster and seem to give Miami trouble on the defensive side of the ball. When Miami played Toronto in early January, the leading scorer for the Heat was Bam Adebayo with 15 points. That could be a problem. On the other side of things, Bam Adebayo seemed to be the perfect player to stop Toronto’s star Paschal Siakam. They match-up pretty well, which makes for a tough regular season game heading into the playoffs.

2. Boston Celtics

The Heat will be playing the Boston Celtics on a back to back after the game against Toronto, which seems to always be the case. These games will be played on August 3rd and August 4th, and interesting enough the Heat played Toronto on December 3rd and Boston on December 4th this season. Just like in that instance, the Raptors give the Heat a tough game and leave them exhausted for a young Boston Celtics team. The Celtics beat the Heat in both games they played this season. But one thing should be noted, Jimmy Butler does not like losing. The idea of losing to this team three times in one season will not sit well with him. Be ready for an absolute display by Heat’s star Jimmy Butler on August 4th.

1. Milwaukee Bucks

And finally, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. It’s always a tough assignment to slow down a leading MVP candidate and only one guy seemed to do it this season. Bam Adebayo. The Miami Heat seemed to play exceptionally well on both sides of the floor against this team, especially on the defensive side of the ball. This is because the way to stop this team is to make everyone other than Giannis beat you. Which is what they did. Once Bam fully locked up Giannis, they then looked to Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe, who did not seem comfortable in those situations. If the Heat could mirror the way they played earlier in the season, they’ll have a chance to take down the Bucks and try and secure a top 4 seed.

Miami Heat: Team needs to avoid fouling inside the paint

The Miami Heat are set to take on the Boston Celtics in what should be a great test for a young team. With the Boston Celtics coming in with a 14-5 record, they are certainly one of the top teams in the conference. Miami needs to focus on limiting Boston’s free-throw opportunities if they want to win this game.

Coming into Wednesday’s action, shooting guard Brad Wanamaker is ranked ninth in the NBA in free-throw percentage. With a 90.7 % from the line, he is extremely successful from there. Point guard Kemba Walker also touts a 90.7 percentage from the line. Part of the reason for their success is that they are able to get the line often.

One of the things the Boston Celtics have done well this year is get to the line. They are a team that likes to drive to the basket, and initiate contact. Walker does it very well in particular. Once he gets a full head of steam heading to the basket, it is difficult to stop him. Wanamaker does a good job of initiating contact on the shot. As soon as he releases the basketball, he looks to initiate contact with the defender.

Walker is 78-86 from the line this season while Wanamaker Is 41-45 from the free-throw line on the season.

What can the Miami Heat do to stop this?

In addition to Walker and Wanamaker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are also very good at driving to the basket. That quartet will undoubtedly keep Miami off-balance. Miami needs to force them to take perimeter shots and play tight defense. It may sound a bit strange, but Miami should live with them making jumpers this game. If Miami lets them go to the rim, they will force the Heat into foul trouble and put the Celtics at the free-throw line.

The Celtics are in the middle of the pack when it comes to making three-point shots. Converting at 34.5%, Boston has struggled a bit in that area. Miami should look to contain the drive to the basket and forced the Celtics to take uncomfortable shots. It’s easier said than done, but It can be done. If Miami wants to keep the winning streak going, they must avoid putting Boston at the free-throw line.

Goran Dragic provides spark in nailbiting victory

Sunday’s action on the hardwood was exciting to the very end. The Miami Heat beat the Brooklyn Nets by a 109-106 score. It seemed like every starter contributed, and that was great to see. This season in particular, Miami has been all about balance in terms of scoring and that was evident on Sunday. And they once again got a major impact off the bench from Goran Dragic.

Dragic provides spark for Miami Heat

Dragic contributed 24 points, six assists, and two rebounds in 31 minutes of play. His 24 points were the most since he scored 25 on November 7 against the Phoenix Suns. This was another case of a player stepping up and helping Miami get the job done. He went three-of-six from behind the three-point line. He also chipped in three free throws.

Sunday night he was definitely looking for his shot, going nine-of-18 from the field. His 18 shot attempts were his most to this point in the season. If the Miami Heat can get him going on a consistent basis, that’s just another weapon they have in their arsenal.  Miami’s versatility this season has allowed Dragic to seamlessly transition from starter to sixth man. That’s the benefit of having depth on the roster. The rookies are playing so well that Miami can mix and match their lineups. For Miami, it’s a nice luxury to have.

With games against the Toronto raptors and Boston Celtics coming up, the Miami Heat need to be firing on all cylinders.  Dragic has been a valuable piece to their success so far. Playing well and with efficiency will be key for both the Heat and Dragic and it will be interesting to see how they do over these next couple of games. These will be two very difficult road tests and will pit Miami against two of the best in the Eastern Conference.

The numbers-crunchers (kinda) like the Miami Heat

While 538 is best known for its political predictions, the statistical website runs plenty of models on sports too.

And it has run one on the Miami Heat and other NBA teams.

Here’s the entire article, which we will explore in more detail — zeroing in on specific Heat players — in future posts here.

But, for now, here’s a look at how they see the team as a whole, based on this calculus…

How this works: These forecasts are based on 50,000 simulations of the rest of the season. Our player-based RAPTOR forecast doesn’t account for wins and losses; it is based entirely on our NBA player projections, which estimate each player’s future performance based on the trajectory of similar NBA players. These are combined with up-to-date depth charts — tracking injuries, trades and other player transactions — to generate talent estimates for each team. A team’s full-strength rating assumes all of its key players are in the lineup.

 

— They have the Heat as the 15th best team in the league, with a projected record of 42-40. That’s actually below the over-under at most Las Vegas sportsbooks.

— That would have them 6th in the East, behind the Bucks, 76ers, Celtics, Raptors and Pacers. The Nets and Magic are next. If Kevin Durant returns during the season, expect the odds to change.

— They have the Heat with a 78 percent chance of making the playoffs. In the West, that would be significantly lower.

— Chance of making the NBA Finals? That’s at 3 percent.

— Championship chance? Less than 1 percent.

On that last one, they obviously haven’t watched Tyler Herro enough.

Is there hope in the East for the Heat?

Well, that went as expected.

The Eastern Conference first round was full of mismatches, especially with Indiana missing Victor Oladipo, and so it should have surprised no one that all four series were slaughters, with the favorites taking 16 of 18 games.

It was also a stark reminder of how far the Miami Heat are from serious contention in the conference. They finished behind the Nets, Pistons and Magic, teams with just a couple of certifiable stars between them. The Heat can talk about injuries (and they were banged up than the Magic in particular, though not the Nets). But the reality is, they’re just not good enough — and with Dwyane Wade retiring, likely about to get worse.

This isn’t us saying it.

It’s you.

After the four top teams in the East easily advanced, we polled it at @5ReasonsSports.

At last count, the Raptors and Celtics were “leading” at about 33 percent each, followed by the 76ers, with the Bucks way behind — because they have Giannis.

But the most popular response was “none of the above.”

It’s hard to envision the Heat passing the Bucks anytime soon. The 76ers? Even if Jimmy Butler leaves, they still have Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons in their early 20s, and probably Tobias Harris. The Celtics may lose Kyrie Irving, but they are still stocked with assets.

The only real wild card is Toronto, considering they could lose Kawhi Leonard, likely to the Clippers.

But — and this is sad to say — if you’re betting Masai Ujiri vs. Pat Riley lately, you go with Ujiri.

Good morning. Paul Pierce is fake news.

Paul Pierce and the rest of the late 2000s, early 2010s Boston Celtics have always had an inflated sense of self.

They won one championship together, but you’d think it was 12. They felt they owned Ray Allen, like, literally. They believed they were in LeBron James’ head, right until he dropped 45 on them in their building of blowhards when the Celtics might have ended the Heat’s Big Three right there and then.

But Pierce, oh, Pierce. He’s really big market Alex English and slightly lower budget Carmelo Anthony, but somehow he’s always been the biggest blowhard of the bunch; at least Kevin Garnett was actually a top-3 player at one point. And last night, on ESPN’s pre-game show, he couldn’t help putting himself ahead of Dwyane Wade in terms of career accomplishments.

And Twitter had its way.

A few highlights of, um, Truth…..

 

 

 

And, finally, Wade speaks the real truth…

JRich, Winslow out for Heat trip

The Miami Heat need just about every game from here out…. and would seem to need every key player.

They won’t have two of the Kids for the next two games, however.

Neither Josh Richardson (heel) nor Justise Winslow (thigh) traveled to New York for the opening contest of a short trip that finishes in Boston.

That means Goran Dragic will continue to start at point guard, with Derrick Jones Jr. also likely taking a spot in the lineup. It also means that the Heat will rely heavily on Dwyane Wade and Dion Waiters to provide offense.

That should be enough against New York.

Against the Celtics, who are trying to grab a homecourt seed in the East?

We’ll see.