Predicting Miami Heat’s Six-Game Western Road Trip
We Aren't in South Beach Anymore
The 2014 year did not start kindly for the Miami Heat. It began with a miserable trip to New York City which turned into the team’s first three-game losing streak in a few years. On top of the losses, Miami was plagued by injuries as both Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier missed extended periods in the month of January.
Then there is the never-ending saga of Dwyane Wade and his problematic knees. The star shooting guard missed a four-game stint to rest his sore knees, his longest absence of the season. After all that, the Heat managed to finish January 8-6.
Like much of the country, Miami was able to weather the storm, but just as they begin to recover, the next storm is on the horizon. Starting February 2-0, the defending NBA champions have arrived out West to begin a six-game road trip. The tour of the Western United States will begin Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Clippers and continue over the course of the next two weeks, including through the All-Star Break.
The next half-month or so will prove to be no easy feat as five of Miami’s six opponents currently hold playoff spots in the West and are well above .500. But the road-trip will prove to be a great barometer for Erik Spoelstra and the Heat as they begin to make the final adjustments before their push to a third-straight title.
I expect Miami to use the next six-games as a way to judge their current situation. Spoelstra will be able to get a better grip on the health of Wade and the rest of the team as well as begin to buckle down on the rotation. LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Wade all must use this trip as a chance to strengthen their bond as the “Big 3” and to build confidence heading into the final third of the season. That being said, here are my predictions for the Heat’s six-game Western Extravaganza.
Shane Phillips is an NBA Writer for RantSports.com. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneRantNBA, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also email Shane at ShaneRantNBA@gmail.com.
Los Angeles Clippers - Feb. 5
Miami defeated Los Angeles earlier this season, 102-97, behind a 29-point performance for D-Wade. The Heat defense was able to shutdown Chris Paul, virtually stifling the Clippers’ offense down the stretch.
With Paul expected to miss the game due to a shoulder injury, I expect an easy win for the Heat. Paul is the floor general and distributor for the Clippers. If he is out then Los Angeles should struggle to put up points against a refocused Miami defense. I predict a Heat victory behind a strong performance from the “Big 3”, 107-92.
Utah Jazz - Feb. 8
The Utah Jazz have a young team with little experience and little success. With a record of 16-32, they sit at the bottom of the Western Conference with the Sacramento Kings. Miami will have a couple of days rest before playing the Jazz, so it should be a simple victory for the champs.
The concern here is that the Heat come out flat and underestimate the Jazz. I doubt that will happen because it is February and this is when Miami gets real. I predict the Heat to handle the Jazz relatively easy, 109-94.
Phoenix Suns - Feb. 11
This is the pivotal game of the road trip for Miami, in my opinion. The Phoenix Suns currently hold the sixth spot in the West with a record of 29-19. Surprisingly, Phoenix is a decent team that is easy to overlook. Due to the lack of a big name star, the Suns have been able to sneak under the radar this season.
Honestly, the Heat could end up blowing out the Suns or it could end up being a great game. Again, rest will not be a factor for Miami who will have a couple of days rest in between. Another key factor is that this is part of a consecutive set for the Heat. So, will Wade play the first game, the second game or both?
With the mystery of Wade’s status, I will play it a bit safe on this prediction and say that Miami holds on for a victory, 103-100.
Golden State Warriors - Feb. 12
Oh, how giddy I get when I think about this game. The Golden State Warriors celebrated the New Year with a big win over Miami on Jan. 2, 123-114. It was a huge confidence-building win for a young Warriors team.
This game proves to be the most treacherous for the Heat as it is the second of a back-to-back set, so Wade’s status will be unknown. I can tell you this; if Miami is not at full force, Golden State may have an easy time. But we can’t forget that James and the Heat really want revenge for the New Year beat-down. As much as I would like to predict a Heat victory, the champs will go into the All-Star break on a loss, 115-109.
Dallas Mavericks - Feb. 18
I could sit here and talk about the Dallas Mavericks – Miami Heat rivalry that never was, but instead I will take the time to say that the Heat will win this game and I guarantee it. They defeated the Mavs earlier this season, 110-104, and I can’t see that changing.
The team, including Wade, will be well rested after the All-Star festivities and will be anxious to set all focus on the three-peat. We all know that Spoelstra and the “Big 3” will want to start the final stretch of the season out on the right foot, so I predict Miami to defeat Dallas, 107-99.
Oklahoma City Thunder - Feb. 20
There is nothing like ending a grueling six-game road trip with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and I have to imagine that Miami’s ugly collapse last month is still fresh in both teams’ minds. Luckily, this is not part of consecutive games, so the Heat should be at full force. But there is a chance that Russell Westbrook will be back.
I suppose you think that I am going to pick the Thunder since the Heat blew an 18-point first quarter lead only to lose 112-95, but isn’t that a tad obvious? Instead, I am going to pick Miami to end their road trip on a high note. The champs will head back to South Beach on a victory in OKC, 104-103.