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With tougher schedule coming up, the Miami Heat have plenty of work to do

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Defeating the 76ers twice by a total of 16 points show the Heat have not overcome their inconsistent play.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

As the Miami Heat prepare to hand the Spurs their first loss in San Antonio this season on March 23rd, the Heat is still not at the level it needs to be to accomplish the task. The next seven games will provide excellent preparation for that test of legitimacy.

The Spurs have achieved a rare accomplishment of going 30-0 at home to start the season, and have lost only nine games as of March 6th. For their part, the Heat need to prove their current five game winning streak is more than a result of a soft patch in the schedule. Miami has less than three weeks to prepare against a team that embarrassed them in the 2014 NBA Finals.

Four days prior to that match-up, on March 19, the Heat will get their last chance to see if they can handle the Cleveland Cavaliers before a possible postseason meeting. The teams split their first two contests, in part due to LeBron James sitting out one of them. This time around the Cavaliers should be at full strength and motivated to smash Miami's title aspirations.

With Jimmy Butler back, the Chicago Bulls look to seek revenge on March 11th for their recent loss. Miami will then have to board a plane and fly overnight to face the tough Toronto Raptors team on the very next day. Compared to facing the Phoenix Suns and Philadelphia 76ers, the upcoming games will be a reality check for the team's status, conditioning and determination.

Other contests in March against the Bucks, Nuggets, Hornets, Pelicans, Magic, Nets and Lakers will reveal how badly the team wants to win every game, regardless of whom they are facing. The 17-turnover game versus the 76ers displayed a lack of discipline the Heat will need to fix as the season winds down. In the next game versus the 76ers, Miami exhibited little fight until the closing minutes. A more talented team would have thrashed the lethargic and slow-footed Heat.

Losing their top scorer in Chris Bosh, the rest of the team elevated their performances with improved numbers across the board after the All-Star break against mediocre opponents. The most difficult task is maintaining the edge each and every game for the rest of the season. The Heat may qualify for the playoffs, but can they do so in a style that will translate into postseason wins?

The Warriors lost to Lakers and the Suns beat the Grizzlies, showing pride comes before the fall even for the best teams. The recent five-game stretch was only a warm-up before the true character of the Heat's heart and soul are laid bare. The Spurs play five home games before they encounter the Heat, and all are nationally televised ones. The Heat-Spurs will be shown only on local TV, which would not have happened in previous seasons.

The half-hearted effort on Sunday revealed a team that could still become a dark-horse candidate for a title run, if they dedicate themselves to be fully engaged for all the games down the stretch. At their current rate the Heat would finish at 48-34 and possibly have a 50-win season, assuming all the pieces come together.

Last-minute reinforcements for the roster are still possible. Two spots remain open during the last days of the season for minimum pay and the players would still be eligible to participate in the playoffs. The 31-8 Sioux Falls Skyforce season ends April 2, with players (except Jarnell Stokes) and coaches free to contribute for the NBA's version of April and June madness.

Feel free to suggest names you think might be helpful additions for the Miami Heat in the post-season, provided they are willing to sign contracts that would allow the team to stay under the salary cap.