So how will the Miami Heat fair in their first real road trip of the season and two home games against elite NBA teams?
Read on to find out.
While it has yet to be announced whether or not LeBron James or Dwyane Wade will be returning to the court against the Nets, I am going to make this prediction assuming that at least LeBron James will be.
The New Jersey Nets are coming off of their second win of the season, with a 97-85 win against the Toronto Raptors, but their one-game winning streak will end there. The New Jersey Nets roster absolutely does not match up well against the roster of the Miami Heat.
The only advantage the Nets have is at the point guard position, with Deron Williams having the clear advantage against Mario Chalmers.
The Nets just don't have the offensive production it will take to stay with the Heat, averaging only 83.1 points per game, which ranks 30th in the NBA. Chris Bosh will have another huge game against Sheldon Williams, especially when he takes him to the perimeter. Even without Wade, and possibly without James, the Heat will cruise to an easy win over the New Jersey Nets.
Miami Heat 108, New Jersey Nets 91
After three precious nights off, the Miami Heat travel to the west coast to take on the Golden State Warriors in their third game in a five-game road trip. There is a very high likelihood that both Wade and LeBron will be back in the starting lineup together for the first time in three games when they take on the Warriors, and that will be too much for a weak defensive Warriors team to handle.
The Warriors have had success this year against the Eastern Conference, with impressive wins against the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks. The only bad news for Golden State is that they don't match up as well with the Heat as they did with both of those teams.
While Steph Curry has the offensive advantage against Mario Chalmers, Chalmers has the defensive ability to hold Curry in check. The other main matchup question is who will guard LeBron James. If David Lee does, that leaves either Andris Biedrins or undersized Dorell Wright to guard Chris Bosh, who will have a field day against both outmatched defenders.
If for some reason Golden State chooses to match up the smaller Dorell Wright with LeBron James, LeBron will rip the Warriors apart. Either way, the Warriors' habitually bad defense, which gives up 97.3 points per game, won't be able to contain the Heat. The game will be closer than many would think, but the Heat will ultimately pull away with solid defense in the fourth quarter.
Miami Heat 104, Golden State 94
All eyes will be on LeBron, Wade, Bosh and the Miami Heat when they take the court against Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and the Los Angeles Clippers. The energy in the Staples Center, with a 7:30 p.m. tip-off that allows Clippers fans to fill the seats, will undoubtedly be through the roof.
The Clippers, in what is the biggest game of their young season, will have a lot on the line against the Miami Heat, trying to prove for the first time in the 2011-12 season that they can compete with the NBA's elite teams, and that will ultimately prove too much for their young team to handle.
The biggest matchup in this game to keep an eye on will be the battle at the center position between the Clippers' DeAndre Jordan and the Heat's dynamic defensive duo of Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem. If Haslem and Anthony can lock down Jordan early on, the Heat will be able to take him out of the Clippers offense, allowing them to double team Blake Griffin and hedge out on pick and rolls with Chris Paul, which will ultimately decide who will win the game.
I expect Dwyane Wade to have the best game of his 2011-12 season, with at least 26 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, because of the offensive advantage he has over the Clippers' starting shooting guard, Chauncey Billups. The Miami Heat will be the first team in the NBA to get 10 wins, by beating the Clippers with a dominating performance by Dwyane Wade and a solid defensive performance by their entire squad.
Miami Heat 99, Los Angeles Clippers 93
The Miami Heat wrap up their five-game road trip with a game against the surprisingly strong Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets have shocked a lot of people by starting the 2011-12 NBA season with a solid 6-2 overall record, with wins against the Los Angeles Lakers and the reigning NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.
I don't think the Nuggets are a better team than the Miami Heat, and they don't match up very well with the Heat's starting five, but I do think the Nuggets will keep the Heat from ending their five-game road without losing a single game. The main reason why the Nuggets will beat the Miami Heat is because the Heat will be worn out, playing their third game in five days, all away from the comfort of their home court.
The Nuggets will be hyped up to play the Miami Heat, after two games against below average teams, the New Jersey Nets and the New Orleans Hornets. The Nuggets' energy will overwhelm a tired Miami Heat squad, who won't be able to match the Nuggets' energy at any point in the game. Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson will have one of the best games of his 2011-12 season against Mario Chalmers, putting up at least 21 points and 11 assists.
Ultimately, the Nuggets bench, which is relatively deep at every position, will outperform the Heat bench by at least 15 points, leading the Nuggets to an impressive double-digit victory.
Denver Nuggets 105, Miami Heat 91
The Manu Ginobili-less San Antonio Spurs won't be able to hang with the Miami Heat, who will be coming off of four days rest. The Miami Heat will be rested, rejuvenated and ready to show the NBA world that their loss to the Denver Nuggets wasn't anything to truly worry about.
The Spurs, who started the season 6-2, will not be the same team without Manu Ginobili, who is out for at least six weeks with a broken hand. Where the Spurs will struggle most is in trying to find someone to shut down Dwyane Wade. Without the defensive prowess of Manu Ginobili on the court, the Spurs will have to task Gary Neal, James Anderson or rookie Kawhi Leonard with shutting down Wade, a task that will prove too much to handle.
With Wade lighting up the Spurs defense, like he did last year scoring 29 points in the two teams final matchup, the Spurs will have a hard time containing LeBron and Bosh when they bring help-side defense on Wade.
The Heat's other major advantage against the Spurs is the depth they have on their bench. The Heat will give solid time to Norris Cole, Shane Battier and James Jones, who match up well against the Spurs bench—and even their starters, respectively. The Heat's production off the bench will help the Heat earn an easy win against he San Antonio Spurs, moving to an overall 11-2 record.
Miami Heat 101, San Antonio Spurs 90
I never thought I'd say this, but when the Miami Heat face off against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Heat will have already played the best team from L.A. in the Los Angeles Clippers. The Miami Heat won both matchups with the Lakers last year, and with the Lakers losing Lamar Odom, the Heat will continue that trend in 2012.
The Lakers, without Odom, are a very different team this year, with two strong seven-footers in the starting lineup in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Bynum has been the surprise of the Lakers' 2011-12 season, with his beastly averages of 22.3 points, 15.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game, and Gasol has been as consistent as expected, with averages of 17.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.
Against the Heat, however, Gasol will be matched up with Chris Bosh, with Bynum matched up against Joel Anthony, which will ultimately prove to be a formidable test for both members of the Lakers' front court. This matchup, in which the production of Bynum, Gasol and Kobe will be balanced out by the Big 3's production, will come down to the battle at the point guard position, and that advantage goes to the Heat with Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole. Derrick Fisher and Steve Blake will have a tough time containing the high pick-and-roll game of the Heat with the faster Chalmers and Cole at the helm.
This Heat vs. Lakers matchup will be closer than both games last year, being decided by single digits, but ultimately this game will have the same result as last year's matchups, ending with a Miami Heat win.
Miami Heat 102, Los Angeles Lakers 95