Heat Check: Top Five Games on the Miami Heat’s 2015 Schedule
The NBA season is long. This statement, to almost everyone, should be obvious. What most people may not realize however is how long it is relative to other sports. Out of the big four American sports leagues (the MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL) the NBA has the second shortest offseason, closely following the NHL. The NBA season is active for 63% of the year. For the sake of comparison, the NFL is only active 41% of the year, and (almost) all of the league’s games are played on one day of the week. The NBA’s (kind of) random nature of scheduling can vary, making the Association a lot tougher to follow, and that’s okay. You can miss a few games here and there and still know what’s going on with the Heat, but there are definitely certain games you aren’t going to want to miss. My job is to share which games I think are most worth turning your TV on, or if you’re a local, dropping some cash on tickets for.
Disclaimer: This is not a list of games I think will be the closest, or the best positional matchups. These are simply the games that I am most excited about watching, as a fan of the Heat and basketball in general. They also happen to all be home games.
Tuesday, November 3rd vs. the Atlanta Hawks:
The Miami Heat get thrown into the fire from the gun this season, playing three of their first four games against playoff teams (and the Hornets). The last of this four-game stretch is the most interesting, with the reigning top seed in the East (the Hawks) coming to Miami. This Hawks game is noteworthy because it is the first divisional home game of the season. Even though winning the division doesn’t affect playoff seeding anymore, everyone loves a divisional rivalry and the Hawks are the best team in the Southeast right now. They were one of only three teams to finish in the top seven in offensive and defensive efficiency last year, along with the Warriors and the Spurs. Not bad company, right? If you can only watch one game in November, make it this one.
Saturday, December 5th vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers:
Oh boy. Everyone loves a good return story, and a LeBron return never gets old. Yes, he played in Miami as a Cavalier last year. Yes, Heat fans shouldn’t have bad blood towards him like Cavs fans did during James’ Heat tenure. Still, it’s always cool to see someone who has given so much for a franchise (and delivered some hardware) come back and play his former squad. This “someone” just happens to be the best player in the NBA. Two more factors that make this game better than the average: One, a healthy Cavs team is going to be extremely good. And Two, see the underlined word in the previous sentence for the importance of this, the Cavs may be without three of their best players on that date. Guards Kyrie Irving (knee) and Iman Shumpert (wrist) are both out until what looks to be January, and no one really seems to be sure when Tristan Thompson is going to sign a new deal with the team. Why does the second point make the Cavs MORE exciting? Well, let’s look at LeBron’s per-game numbers with the 09-10 Cavs and a less than average supporting cast: 29.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 8.6 assists, 1.6 steals, 1 block. On 50% shooting! Buckle up.
Thursday, December 3rd vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder:
Yes, I went out of chronological order. The real draw to this game is the simple, awesome fact that in a span of 3 days, the two greatest basketball players in the world right now will be walking into American Airlines. Kevin Durant’s comeback season is going to be fun to watch, and the Thunder are legit title contenders, so this game is going to be just as much of a must-watch as any other game on this list. While I wish I could throw in a little spice of rivalry in from the 2012 Finals, these are completely different rosters, so the bad blood might not be there anymore. That being said, if any player in the NBA is going to hold a grudge against a city because he lost a Finals there, it would be Kevin Durant. That one was a stretch.
Friday, Dec. 25th vs. the New Orleans Pelicans:
It’s Christmas Day Basketball. That’s all I should have to say. Christmas hoops is up there with Thanksgiving football as one of the best traditions in sports. There’s nothing better than slipping into some brand new socks, loading up on some food, and gluing yourself to the couch for a full day of premier NBA matchups. While the Pelicans aren’t the most exciting team, they boast one of the most exciting, and arguably second best, player in the league in Anthony Davis. The NBA is pretty unique in that people will watch a game for just one specific player (turning on a football game for fantasy interests does not count). Davis is one of the eight players (Lebron, Durant, Davis, Chris Paul, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry, DeMarcus Cousins) worth the price of admission themselves. And this game will be on ESPN, so admission is free!
Wednesday, Feb. 24th vs. the Golden State Warriors:
This game is the most likely matchup on the entire schedule to turn into a crazy shootout. Erik Spoelstra says he wants to run at a faster pace? There’s no better test in basketball than the Warriors, who score fast and score well. They’re the first team since the 05-06 Suns to lead the NBA in pace of play and offensive efficiency. Of course, this game is late in the season so we will know by then if the Heat are going to be able to match that pace. If they can, prepare for rapid fire scoring and nonstop action. If they can’t, prepare for the same, just in a completely one-sided fashion. Either way, Steph Curry is a walking mixtape, so it’ll be an extremely fun game no matter the outcome.
The Heat are going to be an exciting team to watch this year. Any Heat game you watch will probably end up being good just because of the talent Miami has on their roster. These five games will most likely not be decided on buzzer beaters, or go to overtime. Some of them could be blowouts, but there’s a chance some of them could be downright boring. However, putting myself in the shoes of an average Heat fan, if I wanted to watch a fun basketball game, these are the five that I feel would deliver the best results.