Fresh off Miami's hard-fought win over the improving Toronto Raptors, Miami has three games this week. The Heat remain a game-and-a-half behind the Indiana Pacers for the top seed and face three sub-.500 teams this week, but Miami has had difficulty playing against inferior opponents this season.
The new-name Pelicans make their trip to Miami Tuesday in this NBATV Fan Night selection. The Pelicans stand an abysmal 6-12 on the road and are coming off a blowout loss to the Pacers. But in the post-Chris Paul era, New Orleans hopes that Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis provide the foundation for years to come. Miami has to keep both young players out of their comfort zones. Davis averages 19 points and 10 boards this season. For what it's worth, Greg Oden made his first appearance in an NBA game since 2009 in a preseason contest against the Pelicans. It remains to be seen when the Heat will start easing him into the rotation.
Thursday, January 9: Miami Heat at New York Knicks at 8 p.m.
The two-time reigning champions begin a six-game road trip in Madison Square Garden in a nationally-televised game on TNT. A year after finishing with 54 wins, the Knicks have fallen back into irrelevance at 11-22. Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith have regressed as players, and Bleacher Report's Howard Beck recently said that the Knicks should trade Carmelo Anthony. Despite all the malaise, the Knicks have gotten off 2014 on the right foot. New York defeated San Antonio and Dallas on the road and only lost by two to the Houston Rockets. Additionally, Tyson Chandler, who was the second-most important player for the Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals, is back. The Heat can either pour on the Knicks' bad season or give them reason to hope.
Friday, January 10: Miami Heat at Brooklyn Nets at 8 p.m.
The Heat will seek to avenge its first and probably worst loss of the 2013-14 season with a return trip to the Barclays Center. After Brooklyn's early win over Miami, the Nets have looked nothing short of dreadful. Brook Lopez sustained a season-ending injury, Kevin Garnett has fallen off a cliff in productivity, and Deron Williams isn't living up to his maximum contract (to put it mildly). This game, though, does have some excitement because the NBA will allow jerseys to include nicknames for players in this game. We already know that we'll see Ray Allen sport "J. Shuttlesworth" and LeBron James "King James" on their jerseys. Chris Andersen will undoubtedly have "Birdman," and we'll have to see what else shows up. Will Joel Anthony have "Warden" on his jersey? Will Mario Chalmers have "Rio"? That might be more interesting than the game.