Miami Heat: Why This Road Trip Makes or Breaks The Year
It’s Make or Break Time
There’s too much competition.
There are too many great players ready to take anyone’s spot.
In the NBA, you get no off days. In the NBA, the only people that have off days are those franchises who never get the opportunity to make the playoffs or compete against the great competition.
Down here in Miami, Florida, that type of atmosphere doesn’t exist. For the Miami Heat, they are the type of franchise who is used to playing in the spotlight. In fact, players come to Miami to play in the spotlight against the best competition.
That’s why this west coast road trip for the Miami Heat is very important because the spotlight is on them in a major way. The Heat right now are the fifth-best team in the Eastern Conference and they’ve got to find a way to win games on their road trip because a bad road trip could leave them on the outside looking in for the playoffs. The Heat have 22 wins on the season and they are only two and a half games in front of the Orlando Magic for the final playoff spot.
With teams like the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder, it won’t be an easy task to rack up wins. The Warriors are on pace to win 70 games and Clippers have the longest active winning streak in the league at nine games. Additionally, out of their next four games, only one of them is against a team with a losing record, the Denver Nuggets.
So Far, So Good
With the first two games of the west coast road trip starting off against the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz, Miami desperately wanted to go 2-0 but ending up taking the 1-1 split.
The game against Phoenix was especially invigorating as Goran Dragic, and Gerald Green returned to play against their former basketball team. Each of the two had monster games as they combined for 43 points and 10 assists, and a bunch of memorable highlight plays.
Thankfully, getting that one win helps Miami’s case because winning two more leaves them with an even split which would be an awesome accomplishment seeing the opponents on their schedule. It’s the games that Miami plays in like the game against the Utah Jazz where the team needs to show a lot more urgency. Playing against a team like Utah where they faced injuries to 60% of their starting lineup and they still were able to win by double figures is an alarming loss.
To make matter worse, it doesn’t help when Dwyane Wade and Tyler Johnson re-injured their shoulders. But outside of the injuries and the loss, the road trip has started off extremely well.
It Starts With Golden State
Remember how we were discussing the spotlight and how much Miami loves playing in it?
We’ll the biggest spotlight of them all will occur tonight when Miami has to play against Golden State on their home floor. In order to get claimed as the best team in the league, you have to defeat the best.
“We already know we are going to have to play amazing basketball to be able to win that game.”
– Dwyane Wade
What’s been great to see is the way that Golden State stole a bit of Miami’s philosophy by forcing opponents to play small against them. Miami made it popular when they used LeBron James and Chris Bosh as their power forward and center combination allowing another perimeter wing to play small forward. Now Golden State has made it famous for playing small and it’s led them to a lot of success.
“They went through the whole gauntlet last year to finish at the top of the mountain. That says enough. And for them to be on the run they have been on to start this year is nothing short of spectacular.”
– Erik Spoelstra
Everyone’s been waiting to see if they can trust that this Heat team will thrive against great teams and what a better way to test it than playing the best team in the league?
D’Joumbarey A. Moreau covers sports in Miami-Dade & Broward County. You can follow him on Twitter @DJoumbarey.