After the Miami Heat lost to the gritty Chicago Bulls on Sunday afternoon, a somewhat perplexing three-game losing streak has taken a more serious tone. LeBron James is in the midst of a horrendous shooting slump (compared to even some of the more mediocre players in the league), and the once proud Heat bench has suddenly lost much of its aggressive offensive firepower.
The one bright spot from this losing streak is that the two other top teams in the league (the Indiana Pacers and the Oklahoma City Thunder) are also dropping games, which has kept the Heat still just a game back in the loss column from the Pacers and two games back from the top spot in the league.
With this rough road trip behind them, the Heat is now looking at arguably one of the easiest remaining schedules in the league. Only nine of their remaining 22 games are on the road, and out of those nine road games, six are against teams well below the .500 mark. This could be the exact stretch the Heat needs in order regain rhythm heading into the playoffs, plus grab the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. This would mean not only beating the Pacers in their final two matchups of the season, but it would also mean winning the majority of their remaining home games.
The Heat is 24-4 when playing at the American Airlines Arena, which is the second best home record in the league behind the Pacers. This is another huge reason why gaining home court advantage in the Eastern Conference playoffs is important, especially against the Pacers. With such a soft schedule heading forward, the defending champs should absolutely take advantage of winning against mediocre opponents from here on out, which means playing at a high level every night. If the Heat continues losing games against sub .500 teams, grabbing home court advantage down the stretch will be near impossible. Without it, the Heat could be looking a disappointing 2014.