With the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference wrapped up, the Miami Heat enter April with only one thing on the season left to accomplish: finish with the NBA's top record, thus earning home-court advantage throughout the postseason.
This should be very doable for Miami. It will enter the month with the game's best record and have a not-so-difficult April schedule. It has a couple of games against the league's bottom-feeders, and all of its meetings with postseason teams will take place in Miami where the Heat are dominant playing at.
Something to monitor in April is how coach Erik Spoelstra handles the minutes of his star players as the season nears it end. Spoelstra could decide to start seriously monitoring minutes before the top seed is clinched.
If he doesn't do that, though, and lets his Big Three play near their season averages in minutes per game until the last couple of games, April could bring about a lot of winning for the Heat.
All stats from Basketball Reference.
New York Knicks won, 104-84, on Nov. 2
New York Knicks won, 112-92, on Dec. 6
Heat defeated New York Knicks, 99-93, on Mar. 3
The Knicks were able to take down Miami twice early in the season behind out-of-this-world three-point shooting (46.2 3P% combined). In March, when those shots weren't falling (27.6 3P%), the Heat outscored the Knicks by 20 points in the second half on their way to the victory.
Three-point shooting should once again be the key in the upcoming April meeting. The Knicks don't rebound the ball well enough to exploit Miami's issues on the glass nor do they play great enough defense anymore to significantly hinder the Heat's offensive attack.
The Knicks will have to out-gun the Heat from beyond the arc to come away with the win.
Don't count on it, though. It's not a coincidence that the Knicks' three-point successes came early in the season against Miami and that they were unable to replicate it in March. The Heat are playing much better defense now than they were at the beginning of the season. In November, opponents scored 99.8 points per game against the Heat. In March, that dropped to just 91.5 points per game.
Expect the Heat to come out playing really hard, wanting to even the season series, and come away with a fairly easy victory behind their defense.
Prediction: Heat win, 105- 96
Heat in April: 1-0
Heat defeated Charlotte Bobcats, 105-92, on Dec. 26
Heat defeated Charlotte Bobcats, 99-94, on Feb. 4
Heat defeated Charlotte Bobcats, 109-77, on Mar. 24
Not surprisingly, the Heat have dispatched of the 'Cats in their three matchups with them. Miami is obviously the far superior team.
The Heat have the NBA's best record, while Charlotte has the league's worst record.
The Bobcats simply don't have the talent, especially on the offensive end, to give the Heat a run for their money when Miami is playing this well. In its March matchup with the Heat, Charlotte couldn't accomplish much at all against Miami's defense and finished the game with an abysmal 33.9 shooting percentage.
Things haven't much better on the other side for Charlotte, as it has had no answer for LeBron James, who scored 31 points on 13-of-14 shooting from the field against them in February and 32 on 11-of-14 in March.
Expect another monster game from James and a easy blowout victory for the Heat.
Prediction: Heat, 111-84
Heat in April: 2-0
Heat defeated Philadelphia 76ers, 114-90, on Feb. 23
Heat defeated Philadelphia 76ers, 102-93, in Mar. 8
Heat defeated Philadelphia 76ers, 98-94, on Mar. 13
This looks to be a trickier game for the Heat than it might initially seem, as this game represents the second of a back-to-back for Miami and the 76ers played them tight twice in March.
However, the Heat still have significant advantages here that should be enough to propel them to another win.
First of all, the 76ers are a dreadful offensive team. They score just 101.7 points per 100 possessions, which ranks 27th in the league.
On the other hand, the Heat are obviously an excellent defensive team.
Philadelphia hasn't scored more than 95 points once against the Heat this season and it's exceedingly difficult to beat Miami when scoring that few of points.
While the 76ers defense is better than its offense, it's still not at the level where it can win the matchup with the Heat's offense (ranks first in points per 100 possessions). That's a huge problem for Philly's chances of an upset, as it would need to rely on defense to win, considering how much it struggles offensively.
This game being a back-to-back will slow down the Heat a bit; however, they are still a far superior team and will win.
Prediction: Heat win, 101- 87
Heat in April: 3-0
Heat defeated Milwaukee Bucks, 113-106 (OT), on Nov. 21
Milwaukee Bucks defeated Heat, 104-85, on Dec. 29
Heat defeated Milwaukee Bucks, 107-94, on Mar. 15
The Bucks have the ability to pose problems for the Heat, and it's why they are responsible for one of Miami's 15 losses this season.
Milwaukee plays pretty good defense (11th in defensive rating) and with bigs such as Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova, it can really rebound the ball (fifth in team rebounds).
But the issue with the Bucks, and it's why the Heat were able to go to Milwaukee in March and win handily, is that they aren't an efficient offensive team. The Bucks shoot just 43.6 percent from the field, which ranks 25th. Miami held them to 37.1 percent in March.
What also doesn't bode well for Milwaukee's chances here is that it ran into a bit of slump recently, losing seven of its previous 10 games.
The Heat will have great success on the defensive end and Chris Bosh, who has games of 18 and 16 rebounds against the Bucks this season, will do enough on the glass for Miami to win.
Prediction: Heat win, 100-90
Heat in April: 4-0
Washington Wizards defeated Heat, 105-101, on Dec. 4
Heat defeated Washington Wizards, 102-72, on Dec. 15
Heat defeated Washington Wizards, 99-71, on Jan.6
As evidenced by the Heat's two blowout victories against the Wizards since then and also the fact remaining that Wade missed the game due to injury, Miami's loss to Washington in December was a bit of a fluke.
Still, the Heat won't play the same Wizards team they faced in December or January, which was one of the league's worst. Since John Wall returned from an injury that had kept him out all season six days after the Heat's Jan. 6 matchup, Washington has played better than .500 ball (21-18).
Wall has helped turn a dreadful offense to average, and the Wizards defense has remained very strong.
With Wall playing as well as he is right now (more than 30 points in two of last three games), this will surprisingly be a tough game for the Heat, especially considering it's a road game and the second of a back-to-back.
The Heat will fall behind early and trail most of this game. But the Heat are still talent-wise in a whole other class as the Wiz and turn it on late like they are prone to do, which will be enough for the win.
Prediction: Heat win, 99-96
Heat in April: 5-0
Heat defeated Boston Celtics, 120-107, on Oct. 30
Boston Celtics defeated Heat, 100-98 (OT), on Jan. 27
Heat defeated Boston Celtics, 105-103, on Mar. 18
The Celtics came mighty close to ending the Heat's winning streak at 22 in March, but for a couple of reasons it's unlikely Boston will give Miami the same run for its money when they meet again in April.
First of all, the primary reason the Celtics played the Heat so close was because of Jeff Green's 43-point outburst. The chances of Green, who averages just less than 12 points a game, coming close to replicating this are slim to none.
The 2012-13 Celtics still play great defense, but offensively they are nowhere near Miami's equal. So, without an atypical great scoring performance from Green or someone else, it's hard to see the Rondo-less Celtics beating the Heat.
Also of note, the previous matchup was in Boston. This game will take place in Miami, where the Heat are an absurd 32-3.
The C's defense will keep Boston in this game initially, but Miami's defense will make it too hard for the Celtics to stay in it the whole way.
Prediction: Heat win, 100-93
Heat in April: 6-0
Chicago Bulls defeated Heat, 96-89, on Jan. 4
Heat defeated Chicago Bulls, 86-67, on Feb. 21
Chicago Bulls defeated Heat, 101-97, on Mar. 27
This represents a very important game for the Heat. There's the obvious: The Bulls ended the Heat's 27-game winning streak and the Heat will be motivated to exact revenge.
But also, I'm expecting this to be the spot where a Heat victory clinches home-court advantage throughout the postseason. The San Antonio Spurs, who are chasing the Heat for the league's top record right now, have a couple of tough April games. The Heat, as we've gone over, don't really have the same problem.
If this scenario is the case, a victory here would give Miami the luxury to rest its starters for the remaining two games and face no standings consequences for it.
The Bulls shot uncharacteristically well against the Heat in the teams' last meeting (47.1 percent as opposed to 43.6 percent on the season). Considering how strong Miami is defensively, that's unlikely to occur again.
With its great defense, Chicago should be able to hold the Heat under 100 points again; However, don't expect the Bulls to reach that plateau again, either.
This will be another defensive battle, but Miami has the type of elite scorers that can usually overcome great defenses and the Bull's don't.
Prediction: Heat win, 94-89
Heat in April: 7-0
Heat defeated Cleveland Cavaliers, 110-108, on Nov. 24
Heat defeated Cleveland Cavaliers, 109-105, on Feb. 24
Heat defeated Cleveland Cavaliers, 98-95, on Mar. 20
Despite having at least one key member of its team injured every time they've played the Heat, the Cavs have given the Heat three great games before falling short of victory each time.
The Cavs will finally get a win over the Heat here in April, but it won't be as glorious as it might sound.
With the top seed clinched, the Heat will be resting the Big Three here and playing the rest of the key contributors in very limited roles.
While Cleveland isn't a good team, it should beat the Heat's bench pretty easily. When Miami rested its starters at the end of last season, the Wizards blew them out by 34 in the Heat's final regular-season game.
As he was in that Wizards game, Juwan Howard will be given an opportunity to shine.
Prediction: Cavaliers win, 97-81
Heat in April: 7-1
Heat defeated Orlando Magic, 112-110 (OT), on Dec. 31
Heat defeated Orlando Magic, 97-96, on Mar. 6
Heat defeated Orlando Magic, 108-94, on Mar. 25
The Heat will again be resting their top players here. Like the Cavaliers, the Magic have played the Heat very close all season and could even win this game if the Heat weren't taking it easy.
If he's returned from injury in time, expect Nikola Vucevic to have a dominant game, as he's grabbed 20 rebounds in each of the two games he's played in against Miami.
For the Heat, this game represents nothing but rest and a chance to look at the bottom of the bench guys in more extended minutes. As mentioned in the previous slide, that scenario hasn't brought about victories in the past.
Prediction: Magic win, 90-77
Heat in April: 7-2
Miami enters the postseason with the No. 1 overall seed in the 2013 playoffs.