No one in the NBA was probably more relieved to be back on their home court than the Miami Heat. This home stand, which started Tuesday night, will be important to the Heat for a few reasons. It will help them gain confidence that might have been lost on the road trip, show how they size up against the best in the league and it could also help them gain on the Indiana Pacers for the best record in the East.
Miami has struggled as of late but will look to get rolling during this stretch of home games. Before Tuesday night's win over Boston, the Heat had lost four of their last six.
The defense looked a lot better Tuesday, holding the Celtics to 86 points and not letting them score in the game's final three minutes.
Miami is very comfortable in their home building. The Heat are 17-3 at home; the only team with fewer home losses is Indiana. Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers also have three losses at home.
Getting back to American Airlines Arena is good news for the South Beach squad because if they can continue their home success, it should give them confidence moving forward. Near the beginning of the season, Miami lost two straight road games to Philadelphia and Brooklyn. After those losses, they returned back to Miami for a game and did not lose another road game for over a month. Heat fans should be hoping for another spark that ignites a long run.
Coach Erik Spoelstra stated that he thought the routine of being at home would be beneficial for everyone, per Josh Walfish of The Miami Herald. After this rough stretch, the Heat could use a few wins to get them going.
It will not be an easy home stretch, though. Miami will play host to the Los Angeles Lakers Thursday night before San Antonio and Oklahoma City come to town.
A few wins against just anybody would give them confidence, but wins against these teams would show the Heat exactly how they match up with the best teams in the league.
San Antonio, 32-10, and Oklahoma City, 33-10, hold the top two spots in the Western Conference. After losses to mediocre teams like Washington, Brooklyn and New York, these next few games will show how serious Miami is.
The Lakers aren't by any stretch a dominant team, with a record of 16-26. If they are going to struggle on the road, they have to be able to win at home. Right now Indiana is the higher seed in the East, with a 21-1 home record. The Heat need to prove to people they can still get it done at home.
This game is also relevant for LeBron James. Over the past couple of weeks, Kevin Durant has become the front-runner for the NBA MVP. Durant has averaged 40.4 points per game over the last five and in the last 18 days has scored the four highest point totals in a game this season, per SportsCenter's tweet.
James can steal back his MVP limelight with a win over Durant's squad January 29.
With the Indiana loss to Phoenix on Wednesday night, it makes the race for the top spot in the East that much more interesting. The Pacers' loss puts the Heat only three-and-a-half games back for the best record.
Sure, the Pacers' road losses have come against teams with winning records, but they still have lost seven away from their home court. This should provide some hope that the Heat might be able to gain another game or two, with their next three being at home.
These next three games will be very important for Miami to gain some confidence moving forward. In the process, James can gain a little momentum in the MVP race, and the Heat can also show the rest of the NBA that they are still the champs.