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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.

Heat should seek second round with the Bucks

As it stands right now, the Miami Heat would face the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the NBA playoffs. As the 4-seed, the Heat find themselves in the same half of the bracket as the Bucks and defending MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. While some may say that’s not ideal, the Heat should seek that second-round match up with Milwaukee.

 

Miami is one of two teams this season (Denver the other) to have multiple wins over the 53-12 Bucks. The Heat were one of three teams to win in Wisconsin, doing so without Jimmy Butler. Then, in Miami, the Heat held Milwaukee to a season-low 89 points en route to snapping a six-game Bucks winning streak.

 

During those contests, the Heat made Antetokounmpo work for every bucket. Coach Erik Spoelstra rotated multiple defenders at Giannis, and the Heat limited him to just 13 points that night in Miami.

 

Leading into a second-round tilt with Milwaukee will afford Spo more than enough time to sharpen those defensive efforts. Miami will have fully integrated Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder by then, giving the team even more options for Antetokounmpo beyond just Bam Adebayo.

 

The Heat would ill-afford slipping to the 6-seed, because that would likely signal a first-round tilt with Boston. The Celtics are 2-0 versus Miami this season, including a convincing 19-point drubbing at TD Garden in early December.

 

The Celtics have length on the perimeter to frustrate Miami’s offensive efforts, and the Heat have always struggled to contain shoot-first point guards, ala Kemba Walker. While the Bucks have the reigning MVP, the rest of their roster lacks the potent punch of someone like Walker.

 

Upsetting Milwaukee in the playoffs could also have a Durant-like effect on Antetokounmpo’s free agency decision come 2021.

 

This is not to say that the Heat would have an easy first-round opponent before facing the Bucks. Although Miami is 2-0 versus the Pacers this season, neither game featured Indiana’s best players: Victor Oladipo and Malcolm Brogdon.

 

Miami may also see the 76ers in the first round. The Heat were 3-1 against Philadelphia this year, including a rousing victory 117-116 overtime win in December. Jimmy Butler versus his former team would incite endless intrigue and entertainment, and Adebayo could give Joel Embiid fits.

 

Best case scenario for the Heat is they see an Indiana team that’s still integrating Oladipo and a hobbled Brogdon with Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. They’ll be without Jeremy Lamb, too. They’d move on to an upset win over Milwaukee in the second round and face the battered winner of a series between Boston and Philadelphia for a spot in the NBA Finals.

 

Perfect against the Best: Miami Heat maul Milwaukee

The Miami Heat played the best team in the NBA Monday night and got the win in commanding fashion, 105-89.

Here’s what happened…

The Heat came into this game off of back to back wins against Dallas and Brooklyn. With the Heat gaining the confidence that they played with earlier in the season, a win against Milwaukee would help it even more. The Heat were 1-0 with Milwaukee prior to this game.

Nunn and Jimmy came out aggressive to start the first. This is what Miami wants Jimmy to do every night, especially against a team like the Bucks. Nunn and Jimmy each had 8 points on 3/5 shooting. Kelly Olynyk ended the first quarter strong for the Heat going 2 for 2 from three, which lifted the Heat to a 31-26 lead at the end of the first.

The second quarter was more of a defensive battle with the Heat going through a bit of a cold stretch. The only guy who was the complete opposite of cold in the second quarter was Jae Crowder. Crowder hit 4 second quarter threes, and ended the first half with 5. A complete recap of this first half was one word, threes. The Heat scored 33 of their 53 first half points from beyond the arc. The Heat took a 53-52 lead at the half.

After a scoreless first half from Goran Dragic and Duncan Robinson, they started to settle down in the third quarter. They each hit 3 threes in the third quarter for the Heat. This helped Miami take a 81-70 lead over the Bucks, holding them to only 18 in the third.

The fourth quarter was just a recap of all the other quarter, defense and shooting. Bam finally got going in the fourth quarter after having a tough game scoring the basketball. He scored 8 fourth quarter points, while Jimmy and Dragic combined for 16 fourth quarter points. This led Miami to a 105-89 win over Milwaukee to go 2-0 with them on the season.

Miami generally wins games against better teams, most likely since they’re more aggressive against those teams. Being at home also helps our odds in which our defense plays significantly better at home. This proved true while the Heat held Antetokounmpo to only 13 points in the game. He also had a -16 rating while the rest of the Bucks team also had a negative rating. This was big win for the Heat, but it might’ve been a bigger win for the 2021 free agency. This was just a sample of what a polished Miami Heat defense looks like which should be intriguing for a player like Giannis.

Miami Heat Escape Against Brooklyn

The Miami Heat played a tough back to back against Brooklyn Saturday night, and got the victory 116-113 in a down to the wire game.

Here’s how it played out…

Miami came into this game knowing that Brooklyn is a very tough team to beat, even without their star Kyrie Irving who will be out for the rest of the season with an injured right shoulder. Brooklyn has a bunch of guys who play hard and have something to prove every night. All Miami needs to do is touch up on their turnovers while playing against a team with guards who like to run on the break.

Miami picked right back up where they left off in Dallas by getting off to a good start shooting the ball. The ball didn’t stick to anyone’s hands and the ball movement looked great, which always begins once Butler starts to attack. Everyone was able to get their shots up, which was led by Goran Dragic’s 11 points and 5 assists at the half. He also got the crowd going after he hit a one handed three point floater at the buzzer to end the half. The Heat took a 57-49 lead at the half.

The second half began with another great stretch for Kendrick Nunn, who ended the game with 21 points on an efficient 9-14 shooting from the field. He was the main playmaker on the court at times with Goran while Butler and Bam took a break in the third. It was good for Miami’s two stars to get a breather on a tough back to back. It ended up being that Bam and Jimmy needed to come back in the fourth after Brooklyn made a big run after the Heat took a 14 point lead. As Brooklyn began to battle back, Butler began to take over with a clutch And 1, followed by a great give and go with Bam which helped the Heat take a 9 point lead with 5 minutes remaining.

The Nets would not go away behind a great fourth quarter from Joe Harris, who hit 3 threes in the fourth alone. Dinwiddie took the ball to the paint with a little over a minute left to cut the lead to 2. Then with 17 seconds left, Dragic decided to take matters into his own hands, as he has done in the past many times, and hit a big time step back jumper to extend the lead to 4. After a sequence of events, Brooklyn had the ball down two with 9 seconds left and this is where Miami’s two stars prove they are stars. Brooklyn sends Joe Harris off of a pick, in which Bam doubles out with Butler and forces Dinwiddie to throw a tough one handed pass over the defenders. The ball went right out of bounds which locked up a great Miami Heat victory, 116-113.

These types of games always uplift the spirits of a locker room. The attitude of the players was the total opposite of the other night against Minnesota. It seems as if they are definitely having fun again, which of course always comes after winning. Dragic finished the night with 19 points and 10 assists, also having a +8 in 32 minutes. This is the guy the Heat need down the stretch of games, especially come playoff time. Miami has a big game coming up on Monday against the best team in the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks. If Miami could pull off this win, they’d be 2-1 on the season against the Bucks, which would give great confidence closing in on the postseason.

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.