After losing to the New York Knicks last night, the Miami Heat are about to enter their toughest stretch of the season, playing 11 of their next 12 games on the road. Though Miami has been playing incredibly well as of late (obviously notwithstanding last night's collapse) there is still room for concern according to the players.
Commenting on the gruesome road trip to Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel, Heat star Dwyane Wade explained:
"I don't think I've had a span like this January since I've been in the league," he said. "So, this is going to be our greatest challenge of the season. I look forward to see how this team responds to it."
Chris Bosh had a positive spin on the manner as well saying:
"I think it's best for this team, because we've been at home quite a bit. I think maybe that has to do with complacency. I don't think we're mentally tough enough to deal with that and do what we're supposed to do. But, now, if guys don't know what's about to happen, we're about to get a crash course. I think it's great for the team. It's going to bring us closer. And hit the ground running."
I for one am looking forward to this road trip as it gives Miami ample opportunity to silence the naysayers who still don't believe them to be contenders. Looking at the schedule, the Heat will have winnable games as well as those which will push them to their limits.
The first game they play on the road is against a mess of a Phoenix Suns team, and one would expect Goran Dragic to light up his former team. The next is against a Utah Jazz team that the Heat should be able to beat, though it will be on the wrong end of a back to back. Following that game the Heat go up against the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Clippers which will be tough matchups, though Hassan Whiteside always comes to play against the Clippers. After that the Heat play against a deflated Denver Nuggets team, and then end the first part of their road trip versus the Oklahoma City Thunder, as they return home to face the Milwaukee Bucks in Miami.
The next set of road games have the Heat set to take on the Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets and Bucks. If the Heat can shut down the Wizards to the degree they did last time they should win. Miami will be tested by the Raptors, but they have beaten them once this season already and don't have to worry about DeMarre Carroll as he's out for knee surgery. I'm looking forward to see how the Heat take on the Bulls, as the Bulls don't really have a solid identity right now. Following that game, the Heat take on the Nets on another end of a back to back; hopefully they'll have enough juice in the tank to win that one before heading to Milwaukee to end the stretch.
If the Heat manage to stay healthy over the next 12 games, they might be able to end this stretch with a solid record. What I'm interested in is whether or not any of the Heat players will require rest, and sit out some of these games. Obviously it's too early to say, but I feel like Heat Nation is in for some entertaining basketball this month.