The Miami's Heat's regular season schedule was released on Wednesday with plenty of excitement. With a Christmas Day game against the Pelicans and a Thanksgiving weekend in New York, the Heat have plenty ahead of them.
You can see the full schedule and all the key and important match-ups right here.
But as I overlooked the schedule, there were three things that instantly popped out to me about Miami's road ahead. Three things that if they don't thrive or survive, it could doom either their seeding or playoff hopes. Here they are...
1. Can Miami get off to a hot start?
The Heat will play 14 of their first 19 games at home. That's a pretty good way to try to get things going early. 12 of those nineteen games are against teams that didn't make the playoffs last season (including OKC).
That means the Heat, although with some tough games in there, have a golden chance to kick off the season with a really good start. After the first quarter of the season is over, Miami will have had a home heavy schedule and won't be able to rely on the home court as much moving forward. They have to take advantage of this while they are home. Only 27 of their remaining 63 games will be at home after December 7.
The consequences for Miami fluttering out of the gate could be troublesome. Say Miami gets off to a mediocre start at 10-9, they'll then have to try to find their way back above .500 on the road, and they'll be on the road for a while. The Heat didn't have a great home record last season, they'll need to impress during this stretch.
2. Can the Heat survive a month on the road?
From January 8 - February 5, the Heat will only play 2 home games. It will be 14 out of 16 games on the road, including 6-game west coast trip and a 5-game east trip. That's a long time to be on the road. After their first leg of it, they will play Milwaukee at home and then the next night back on the road.
Over that road stretch in Jan-Feb, Heat could be spending 24 nights in 33-night span in hotels.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) August 12, 2015
It's going to be gruesome. The question isn't will the Heat thrive on this trip, it's going to be: can they survive? Will Miami play at least .500 ball on the road to keep themselves alive in the East. This is going to be a trying time because it's also in the darkest time of the NBA season -- between the highlight of Christmas and until the Super Bowl. They are known as the "dog days of January" in the NBA. You have to fight through, and Miami will be doing it on the road.
If the Heat do terrible on this trip, they are going to have a lot of work ahead of them to try and put themselves in good position for the playoffs. This, in all honesty, is likely the make or break part of the Heat's season. If they do well here, they are a good team. If they are hurt, struggle or just give up, that's what you will probably see the rest of the year.
This will be a defining time in Miami's season.
3. Will Dwyane Wade play more this season?
Seems like a silly question and one that is arbitrary, but the schedule has been lightened of back-to-backs and 4 games in 5 nights. There is plenty less of those, and not many extended 4-5 day breaks in the schedule. If this is the case, can Wade play more games even though it will be a constant grind outside the All-Star break?
More Dwyane Wade = more wins for the Heat.