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Tough schedule ahead for the Miami Heat in January

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After a great win against Dallas to open the new year, the Miami Heat are set to face a tough schedule in January.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Since the beginning of the season, the Miami Heat played 21 of their 32 games at AmericanAirlines Arena. Unfortunately, Erik Spoelstra and his players didn't really take full advantage of the relatively easy schedule. For a team who has such high expectations for this season, going 14-7 during that span is not good enough, especially when you consider that Miami is under .500 on the road with only five wins in eleven games.

And here comes the January marathon, arguably the toughest month of the season for the Heat. In 29 days, Miami will play 16 games, including eleven on the road and four back-to-backs. Clearly, it's going to be a big test for a team who has been inconsistent during the first 32 games. Sometimes, the Heat looked like a contender who could compete with the best teams in the NBA and some nights, Miami looked like an overrated team with aging talents and without chemistry.

January will tell us a lot about this team. As weird as it is, the Miami Heat played some of their best basketball against NBA powerhouses, but struggled sometimes against average and even bad teams. Three of the most complete performances from the Heat this season came against the Toronto Raptors (on November 8), the Oklahoma City Thunder (on December 3) and the Atlanta Hawks (on December 14). At the same time, Miami lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves (on November 17) and to the Brooklyn Nets (on December 28) at home, and almost dropped the game against the Philadelphia Sixers (on November 21).

Based on that, the Heat should be at their best in January because good to great teams are on the team's schedule this month. Miami will meet the Golden State Warriors, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Thunder during the West Coast road trip, before facing the Raptors and the Chicago Bulls during the East Coast road trip. To finish the month, the Heat will return home to play the Hawks.

In other words, January can be a make or break month for the Heat, especially in a competitive and balanced Eastern Conference. Tonight will be a first test on the road, against John Wall and the Washington Wizards.