By Halloween this season will be either a trick or a treat for the Miami Heat due to the schedule. Five of the first six games are home games at AA Arena, which helps. Since the first six opponents are equally split between lottery and playoff teams, they’ll give a gauge if last season's second half was an illusion. In October the Heat face,
Oddsshark.com has Miami as 4 point favorites versus Orlando, as of 10/17/2017. The Heat finished last season #2 in their power rankings, so time will tell how much of that strength carries over to this season. Biggest question mark for the opener is whether coach Erik Spoelstra can figure Orlando out, since the Magic won the last 3 games against the Heat with the playoffs on the line.
Versus the Heat, the Spurs might be without Kawhi Leonard altogether or on limited minutes due to tendinopathy in his left quadriceps, per my mysanantonio.com.
"Now, his absence appears poised to bleed into the games that count. Leonard has not practiced since the start of training camp, though he has been in the Spurs’ practice facility to participate in rehab work.
Popovich said there remains no timetable for Leonard’s return, even beyond Wednesday’s opener."
The Celtics game presents the Heat with a reality check to see if Miami indeed is a top-4 team. Heat nemesis Isaiah Thomas is gone and Marcus Morris may be out, but Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, and Al Horford present major problems for the Heat. The debut of Kelly Olynyk and Jordan Mickey facing the only team they played for could be an emotional encounter on both sides.
The Timberwolves with Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, and Karl-Anthony Towns will be a handful for Heat defenders to handle. They'll test Miami to the fullest, featuring a battle of the titans between Towns and Hassan Whiteside during the game and twitter after it.
A 6-0 sixfecta (the latin equivalent of six is NSFW or NSFM) would definitely be a magical opening, with a 4-2 beginning a more realistic target. By November Heat fans will have an idea which half of last season represents Miami this time around as it aims for a top-4 spot that Tim Bontemps. predicts for Miami.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
2. Washington Wizards
3. Boston Celtics
4. Miami Heat
5. Milwaukee Bucks
6. Toronto Raptors
7. Charlotte Hornets
8. Detroit Pistons
The Cavaliers should be the East’s best team, but there could be a real battle for second. The guess here is Washington gets the edge, thanks in part to Boston essentially having to figure out an entirely new team this season.
That finish has the Heat facing the Bucks to advance to the second round, which Bontemps predicts the Bucks will prevail.