Game-by-Game Predictions for the Miami Heat in March

Sam RichmondCorrespondent IMarch 1, 2013

Game-by-Game Predictions for the Miami Heat in March

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    The Miami Heat will enter March on cloud nine. They currently have a 12-game winning streak, which has given them a record of 41-14 and a 6.5-game lead on first place in the Eastern Conference.

    Still, with a great March, things could get better for Miami.

    They have the potential to end even the remote possibility of someone catching them in the East.

    Going even further, though, they can catch the San Antonio Spurs for the best record in the whole league. That has significant importance, as it would give the Heat home-court advantage throughout the entire postseason, including the NBA Finals.

    There is great opportunity for the Heat in March. Let's predict if they will take advantage of it. 

    Note: Statistics from Basketball Reference

March 1 vs. Memphis Grizzlies

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    Previous meeting

    Memphis Grizzlies win 104-86 on Nov. 11

    There's no getting around it: the Grizzlies beat up Miami in their last and only matchup of the season back in November.

    However, it's definitely worth noting that the two Memphis players most responsible for the victory, Rudy Gay (21 points, eight rebounds and five assists) and Wayne Ellington (25 points and seven three-pointers), are no longer on the team.

    We head into this game with Memphis and Miami each playing some of their best basketball all season. The Grizzlies aren't far behind the Heat's winning streak, as they've put together eight consecutive wins of their own.

    If Miami is to grab its 13th win, they'll need to be able to overcome an incredibly stingy defense. The Grizzlies rank second in the league in defensive rating, allowing just 99.8 points per 100 possessions on the year. 

    Good for Miami: they have an equally formidable offense (second in offensive rating) led by the absurd greatness of LeBron James

    Memphis is tough to score on, but with just how offensively efficient LeBron and Dwyane Wade are playing at the moment, Miami gets the edge in this one.

    Prediction: Heat win 100-91

    Heat in March: 1-0

March 3 at New York Knicks

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    Previous meetings

    New York Knicks win 112-92 on Dec. 6

    New York Knicks win 104-84 on Nov. 2

    The Knicks outplayed the Heat both times they've faced off this season. However, the Heat won't be facing those Knicks when they square off in March. New York was playing lights-out basketball at the time, especially from beyond the arc, as they knocked down a ridiculous 37-of-80 three-point attempts in the two games.

    The Knicks are still a sharp-shooting (37.3 percent on outside shots) and quality team, but long gone are the days of Carmelo Anthony looking like a serious MVP candidate and New York appearing to be a serious threat to Miami's throne. 

    This game is in New York, which bodes well for the Knicks (21-8 at home). Still, Miami pulled off some very impressive road victories last month, such as their 110-100 win against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Feb.14, and seem primed to start off March right where they left off in February. 

    The Heat are the more efficient offensive and defensive team and are hitting their stride. The Knicks, on the other hand, are going the other way, losing four of their last six games.

    The Knicks can win this game with another excellent shooting performance. But with Miami playing better defense than they were at the start of the season, don't expect one.

    Prediction: Heat win 111-100

    Heat in March: 2-0

March 4 at Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Previous meeting

    Heat defeat Minnesota Timberwolves 102-93 on Dec. 18

    Miami walked away with the victory in their only previous matchup with Minnesota this season, but the game showcased Miami's lack of rebounding ability. The Timberwolves absolutely killed the Heat on the glass, grabbing 53 boards to Miami's paltry 25. 

    With how inept Minnesota is offensively, dominating the rebounding battle and getting a great deal of easy second-chance opportunities is really their only hope when facing the Heat.

    With Kevin Love injured, the Timberwolves' chance of grabbing rebounds to the degree necessary for them to take down Miami has only decreased. 

    The Wolves are really struggling at the moment sans Love, having won only four games since Jan. 8. They are far from ready to face this Miami Heat buzzsaw.

    While this is a back-to-back for Miami, this should be an easy win for them, one in which the starters get to rest for much of the 4th quarter. 

    The Timberwolves won't be able to keep up with the Heat's potent offensive attack, and the Heat should run away with it early.

    Prediction: Heat win 105-85

    Heat in March: 3-0

March 6 vs. Orlando Magic

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    Previous meeting

    Heat defeat Orlando Magic 112-110 (OT) on Dec. 31 

    It took the Heat overtime to dispatch the inferior Magic, but a monster game from LeBron (36 points and 11 assists) put them over the top. Still, this represented another game in which Miami's rebounding flaws were on full display. The Magic's Nikola Vucevic almost grabbed as many rebounds (29) as the whole Heat team (33).

    But even with Orlando being a much better rebounding team than Miami, the Magic just don't have the talent in other areas to make the Heat pay for their issues on the glass.

    The Magic rank a pitiful 26th in both offensive and defensive rating. They've only won two games since the middle of January, and are much more likely to end up with the top draft pick than compete with the Heat.

    It's really difficult to envision a scenario in which Miami doesn't walk away the win. It's hard to find a disparity of talent that exists greater than that of these two teams.

    Prediction: Miami wins 108-84

    Heat in March: 4-0

March 8 vs Philadelphia 76ers

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    Previous meeting

    Heat defeat Philadelphia 76ers 114-90 on Feb. 23

    The Heat beat the 76ers from start to finish in February, behind huge offensive games from James and Wade. 

    The 76ers were a great defensive team the previous two years, but the same can't be said about them in 2012-13. Miami and its two stars were able to do whatever they wanted offensively, from in close and outside, and shot a stellar 58.4 percent from the field.

    With those defensive struggles, the 76ers would need to be a strong offensive team to have a chance at knocking off Miami. They are not. In fact, the 76ers are the second least efficient offensive team in the NBA. 

    Without Andrew Bynum, the 76ers represent an easy win for Miami. This should be another game in which The Big Three can rest up at the end.

    Prediction: Heat win 108-95

    Heat in March: 5-0

March 10 vs Indiana Pacers

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    Previous meetings

    Indiana Pacers win 87-77 on Jan. 8

    Indiana Pacers win 102-89 on Feb. 1

    After a stretch of easy wins, the Heat will face a real test against the Pacers on the 10th. Indiana has the best defensive rating in the league, which is no surprise considering how they stifled Miami's attack in their previous matchups 

    Still, this game looks promising for Miami.  

    This will be the first Heat-Pacers game this season to take place in Miami. That factors greatly in the result, considering how dominant both of these teams are at home (Miami is 25-3 and Indiana is 24-6).

    Also, the Heat should have plenty of motivation for this game. This is the last time this season the Heat play the Pacers.

    it would be quite discouraging for them to lose all three, especially considering Indiana appears to be their biggest competition in the Eastern Conference.

    Not too many regular-season games mean much to Miami, but this one will. 

    The Heat will bring a ton of energy to this home game and win a typical, low-scoring Heat-Pacers affair. 

    Prediction: Heat win 90-85

    Heat in March: 6-0

March 12 vs Atlanta Hawks

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    Previous meetings

    Heat defeat Atlanta Hawks 95-89 on Nov. 9

    Heat defeat Atlanta Hawks 101-92 on Dec. 10

    Heat defeat Atlanta Hawks 103-90 on Feb. 20.

    The Hawks, especially Al Horford, are playing really well right now and look dangerous. Still, we saw just recently, on Feb 20, that even Atlanta at its best is not good enough to beat Miami. Horford dominated his matchup with Chris Bosh, scoring 27 points and grabbing nine boards while holding Bosh to six points and two boards. Yet, Miami still came away with the win due to a 40-17 shellacking in the 4th quarter.

    The fact that the Heat are in position to sweep the season series against Atlanta is far from a surprise.

    The Hawks are a team that doesn't defend the three-point ball well (opponents are shooting 38.2 percent in 2012-13), and the Heat have plenty of shooters.  Atlanta also doesn't rebound the ball enough (26th in team rebounds) to exploit Miami's biggest weakness area.

    As the talent on the roster suggests they should be, the Hawks are pretty good, but not great. They'll always be good enough to make the playoffs, but never good enough to matchup evenly with the Heat.

    Ray Allen and the Heat's sharpshooters will go to town and Miami will win comfortably. 

    Prediction: Heat win 109-98

    Heat in March: 7-0

March 13 at Philadelphia 76ers

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    Previous meeting

    Heat defeat 76ers 114-90 on Feb. 23

    The 76ers definitely have a better chance of coming away with the win here than they do on March 8, as this game will be played in Philly. It's not as if the 76ers are a great home team or anything (16-15), it's just they are abysmal on the road (6-19). This is also the second game of a back-to-back for Miami, which ups Philly's odds.

    Still, home or road, rest or no rest, Miami is simply a much better basketball team than Philadelphia. They out-execute them on both sides of the floor, and have significantly more talent.  

    The only way Miami loses this game is if they play down to their competition, which they are guilty of doing from time to time. 

    With this win having the potential to give Miami its 20th consecutive victory, the Heat will play with enough intensity to come away victors.

    Prediction: Heat win 103-91

    Heat in March: 8-0

March 15 at Milwaukee Bucks

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    Previous meetings

    Heat defeat Milwaukee Bucks 113-106 (OT) on Nov. 21

    Milwaukee Bucks defeat Heat 104-85 on Dec. 29

    While the Bucks record suggests this should be an easy win for the Heat, Milwaukee has given them trouble this season. The Bucks handed the Heat their second-worst loss of the season in December, so this March matchup is by no means a cakewalk.

    The Bucks' success against the Heat this year stems from their defense. The Bucks have the ninth-best defensive rating and held the Heat to under 100 points in regulation in both of their matchups.

    The Heat's offense has improved since then, as it averaged more than 107 points per game in February. It seems unlikely that the Bucks, even with excellent defenders like Larry Sanders, could hold the Heat to 43 percent shooting, which they did in their last meeting.

    This game will be dependent on Miami's offensive success. With how much recent success they've had in that area, this game looks very winnable for the Heat.

    Prediction: Heat win 109-100

    Heat in March: 9-0

March 17 at Toronto Raptors

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    Previous meetings

    Heat defeat Toronto Raptors 123-116 (OT) on Jan. 23

    Heat defeat Toronto Raptors 100-85 on Feb. 3

    The Raptors are a more dangerous team with Rudy Gay now on the roster. Toronto has won six of its past nine games and looks improved. Still, though, even with Gay scoring 29 points on just under 50 percent shooting against the Heat in February, Miami was able to come away with a 15-point victory in Toronto. 

    Gay or no Gay, the Raptors are a below-average defensive team that doesn't rebound the ball well at all. That's not the type of team that seems poised to upset the Heat.

    The Heat know this and will probably relax a bit and make this game harder on themselves than it needs to be. Expect the Heat to win, but for them to let the Raptors hang around for a couple of quarters. 

    If it does get close, though, expect Miami to flip the switch, as this win would give the Heat 22 consecutive victories, which would tie them for the second longest winning streak in NBA history.

    Prediction: Heat win 102- 93

    Heat in March: 10-0

March 18 at Boston Celtics

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    Previous meetings:

    Heat defeat Boston Celtics 120-107 on Oct. 30

    Boston Celtics defeat Heat 100-98 (OT) on Jan. 27

    The Heat catch a tough break here scheduling-wise, with a game at the Boston Garden on the second of a back-to-back.

    While the Heat are a much better team than the Celtics, the two teams' rivalry brings out an intensity from Boston that allows them to close the talent gap a bit.

    Boston isn't potent offensively, but they know the Heat, can defend and are well coached.

    This game means a lot more to Boston from an emotional standpoint as well, as they'll want to prove they can still compete for a title, which doesn't bode well for Miami.

    This looks to be a similar game to the one we saw on Jan. 27. It will be a close and low-scoring game that is decided by one or two plays. 

    If the Heat were fresh they likely come away this victory, but being on a back-to-back hurts. Expect the Celts to pull this one out and end Miami's winning streak.

    Prediction: Celtics win 97-94

    Heat in March: 10-1

March 20 at Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Previous meetings

    Heat defeat Cleveland Cavaliers 110-108 on Nov. 24

    Heat defeat Cleveland Cavaliers 109-105 on Feb. 24

    The Heat have played two really close games with Cleveland this season, which, on the surface, is quite surprising. 

    While the Cavs don't even average 98 points per game, they've been able to have offensive success against the Heat. In fact, in their last meeting, Cleveland shot 50 percent from the field.

    The Heat will need to pick up the intensity on defense this time around, hopefully having learned their lesson after two inadequate defensive performances.

    Miami should be dominating these games. The Cavs allow opponents to shoot 47.7 percent from the field and 37.7 percent from beyond the arc.

    With their shooters facing that defense, Miami is undoubtedly going to rack up points. However, this game will be decided by whether the Heat decide to respect Cleveland's offense. 

    After a tough loss at Boston, Miami will make sure they get this one, so expect Miami to hold Cleveland under 100 points.

    Prediction: Heat win 107-95

    Heat in March: 11-1

March. 22 vs Detroit Pistons

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    Previous meetings

    Detroit Pistons defeat Heat 109-99 on Dec. 28

    Heat defeat Detroit Pistons 110-88 on Jan. 25

    Detroit's December win needs some sort of asterisk because the Heat were without Wade. When at full strength in January, Wade scored 29 and Miami demolished Detroit, as they should have.

    The Pistons have some nice young pieces, but they lack the necessary offensive talent to hang with Miami. Case and point: The Heat average nine more points per game than the Pistons. 

    Detroit can rebound and isn't a necessarily poor defensive team, but the lack of scorers puts them at a huge disadvantage against a team like the Heat.

    Miami will have defensive success against Detroit's subpar offense. On the other side, while Bosh might struggle against guys like Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, James and Wade will have their usual fantastic games.

    Prediction: Heat win 103-85

    Heat in March: 12-1

March 24 vs. Charlotte Bobcats

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    Previous meetings

    Heat defeat Charlotte Bobcats 105-92 on Dec. 26

    Heat defeat Charlotte Bobcats 99-94 on Feb. 4

    The Bobcats have actually played close with Miami this season, which represents the Heat playing down to their competition at its worst.

    The Heat will win this March matchup, but with this being the first of a back-to-back, expect the Heat to coast in this game at times to conserve energy.

    When Miami needs to win it, they will. This is the Bobcats, the NBA's worst team, against the reigning-champion Heat we're talking about.

    Really, the main focus of this game should be how LeBron follows up his 92.8 percent shooting performance from that February matchup. Against this poor Bobcats team, plan to see something special from LBJ.

    Prediction: Heat win 101-89

    Heat in March: 13-1

March 25 at Orlando Magic

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    Previous meeting

    Heat defeat Orlando Magic 112-110 on Dec. 31 

    The Heat face off against the Magic for the second time in March here.

    This time it's on the road, but that shouldn't have very much of an impact on the result. The Magic are horrible regardless of venue. This game is the second of what has got to be the easiest back-to-back in the NBA today (Bobcats and Magic).

    Miami is such a better team than Orlando that the goal for the Heat in this game is to win without key players exerting very much energy.

    We will see low workloads for the Big Three in this game, yet it will still be a relatively easy "W" for Miami. 

    Prediction: Heat win 105-88

    Heat in March: 14-1

March 27 at Chicago Bulls

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    Previous meetings

    Chicago Bulls defeat Heat 96-89 on Jan. 4

    Heat defeat Chicago Bulls 86-67 on Feb. 21

    The Heat really struggled in their first meeting with the Bulls. Chicago pounded the paint, killed Miami on the glass and came away with the win.

    Miami responded in February, showing again how much better the Heat are than every other East team when they are playing at their best.

    The Bulls are such a strong defensive team (fourth in defensive rating) and Miami can be just as great when it wants to. Expect another low-scoring game, regardless of the winner.

    The difference between these teams, which we saw in their last meeting, is that the Heat have scorers that can overcome defense no matter how excellent. The Bulls, without Derrick Rose, don't.

    Count on LeBron, who scored 26 points on 15 shots in these teams' previous meeting, to carry the Heat and easily lead this game in points.

    Prediction: Heat win 92-84

    Heat in March: 15-1

March 29 at New Orleans Hornets

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    Previous meeting

    Heat defeat New Orleans Hornets 106-90 on Dec. 8

    The Heat easily defeated the Hornets on the backs of Wade and James, but they'll face a different Hornets team in March.

    Two of the Hornets' best players, Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon, missed their first game against Miami.

    While facing those two makes this a more difficult game for Miami, it still shouldn't be too much of a challenge. The Hornets are ranked 27th in defensive rating. With Miami's offense as dynamic as it is, that's almost an unfair matchup. 

    Wade and James missed only 8-of-28 combined shots in the December meeting, and that type of scoring efficiency should be expected from them in this one as well.  

    The Hornets have a good, not great, offense (ranked 14th). With how many points Miami is going to put up in this game, it will be extremely difficult for New Orleans to keep up.

    The Heat should be able to pull away early in this one.

    Prediction: Heat win 115- 94

    Heat in March: 16-1

March 31 at San Antonio Spurs

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    Previous meeting

    Heat defeat San Antonio Spurs 105-100 on Nov. 29

    While not technically so, this will really be the first matchup between the Heat and Spurs. If you'll remember, the Spurs sat out Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green for the November matchup.

    The Heat don't play too many teams in March that are capable of beating them on a consistent basis, but the Spurs represent at least one. They are elite on both sides of the floor (seventh in offensive rating and fourth in defensive rating), which is a claim the Heat can't even make right now (second in offensive rating and 11th in defensive rating).

    It also doesn't help Miami that this game will be played in San Antonio where the Spurs are an awfully impressive 22-3.

    This will be a very close game with Tony Parker and LeBron James putting on a great show. In the end, though, the Spurs will feed off their home crowd and squeak out a close win.  

    Prediction: Spurs win 101-99

    Heat in March: 16-2

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