Five games into the toughest month of the Golden State Warriors' 2012-2013 schedule, Dubs fans find themselves having to accept the harsh reality that this team is not invincible.
After a dominating 115-94 win against the Los Angeles Clippers at home on Jan. 2, the Warriors have dropped three of their past four games heading into their showdown with the defending champions.
Not to mention, King James will be even more determined than usual on Wednesday night as he needs just 18 points to become the youngest player ever to score 20,000 points.
The next five games after their matchup with the Heat do not get any easier, as the Warriors hit the road to play the San Antonio Spurs and the improving New Orleans Hornets. They then return home to host the Clippers and the Oklahoma City Thunder before going back on the road to face the Chicago Bulls.
If the Warriors want to see themselves still in the fifth spot of the Western Conference standings at the end of this rough stretch, they will need to have a big performance on Wednesday night.
In these teams' last meeting in Miami, the Heat made it a huge point to smother Stephen Curry and force other Golden State players to beat them. Often double-teamed, Curry only got up 10 shots, including three three-pointers.
While it may not seem like Curry's nine points were a huge factor in the game, his 42 minutes were crucial as it allowed his teammates to get wide open looks since the defense was so focused on containing the sharpshooter.
David Lee was also excellent in the win going for 14 rebounds and 22 points on 9-of-18 shooting. Curry and Lee had the two highest plus-minus ratings in the game, a combined plus-20.
Both of these team leaders will need to come up huge against a Heat squad seeking revenge. However, if Stephen Curry's hyperextended knee (per Ric Bucher, via Sulia.com) is worse than initially thought, it could be a long night for Golden State.
Thompson's carelessness has had an effect on his sweet shooting stroke as well—he has gone 3-of-12 shooting from downtown over those two games.
If the Warriors are going to complete the sweep of the reigning champs, Klay will need to play smart and regain confidence in his shot. Against the Heat on Dec. 12, Thompson played a huge part in the offense with 27 points, including 14 in the second quarter.
Let's face it. At this point in his career, LeBron James is pretty much unstoppable. There is only so much any team can do to stop this man from dominating on a nightly basis.
Chris Bosh also presents a difficult matchup for the Dubs as he can be a nightmare for David Lee and Carl Landry inside the paint. Or his outside shooting could cause issues by forcing Golden State big men Festus Ezeli and Andris Biedrins away from the basket.
Dwyane Wade struggled in the first matchup, going 5-of-14 from the field. The Warriors can't count on him having another poor performance.
The superstars for the Miami Heat are going to get their numbers, but what the Warriors did so well in their upset at AmericanAirlines Arena—and what they need to do again at Oracle Arena on Wednesday—was to limit the role players.
Other than Ray Allen, who went 6-of-10 for 14 points against the Warriors last time around, the Dubs contained Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Shane Battier, Joel Anthony and Norris Cole, holding them to a combined 15 points.
If the Warriors can again stop those players from getting hot, especially behind the three-point line, it will give the Dubs a legitimate shot at winning the game even if Miami's Big Three play well.
The win over the Heat on Dec. 12 was very likely the game that Jarrett Jack catapulted himself into the discussion as a candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year Award.
In 31 minutes, Jack scored 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting and contributed four assists and four rebounds as well. The Miami Heat had no answer for the backup point guard and were left dumbfounded when he rifled a game-winning assist to Draymond Green in the final seconds.
Since injuring his elbow while lifting weights (via the same Ric Bucher report referenced on David Lee-Stephen Curry slide above), Jack is 1-of-10 from beyond the arc, where he has been shooting well over 40 percent on the year. The injury has affected both his shooting and overall confidence, as his percentages and attempts have been down the last few games.
If the Warriors want to walk away on Wednesday night with a win, they will need Jarrett Jack to have the same kind of fearless mentality and efficient scoring that has turned him into one of the team's most valuable players.
This is the game that everyone has circled on their calender. The defending NBA champions are in town.
And they feature the best basketball player in the world.
Not to mention, the Warriors beat them in one of the wildest games of the NBA season just over a month ago. So expect Miami to come in hungry. You can count on the crowd at Oracle Arena on Wednesday to be one for the ages.
The Dubs have protected their home court well so far this season, going 12-5. They will need to play off the energy of the raucous crowd in order to complete the sweep of the Heat.
If Golden State succeeds in all five areas, they have a good shot of pulling out a W and kicking off this tough six-game stretch on a great note.
Think the Warriors can pull off another victory over LeBron James and the Miami Heat on Wednesday? Voice your opinion in the comments section below.