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Miami Heat: Predicting How LeBron James and Co. Will Fare Through December

Justin EisenbandCorrespondent INovember 30, 2010

Miami Heat: Predicting How LeBron James and Co. Will Fare Through December

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    It's no secret. November has not been a kind month to the Miami Heat. Dwyane Wade had one of the worst games of his career on November 22nd, shooting 7.7 percent from the field on thirteen shots and turning the ball over five times.

    Chris Bosh and LeBron James have played strong statistically, but the Heat will finish the month at a disappointing 7-7. Consequently, rumors have been flying concerning the security of head coach Erik Spoelstra's job.

    December will be a big month for Miami. The Heat will have an opportunity to prove to the world that the Miami team that started 10-8 is not the Miami team that will exist for the rest of the season. More importantly, the Heat will have the chance to prove to Pat Riley that Erik Spoelstra should remain the team's coach for the entire season.

    Miami plays 16 games in the month of December. The goal should be to get at least 12 victories. Here are predictions for how the Heat will do over the course of the next month.

Dec.1, Vs. Detroit

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    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    The Heat start the month off easy with a home game against the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons have struggled early on in the season to a 6-11 record. Furthermore, the Pistons have played especially poorly on the road with a 2-7 record.

    The Heat have struggled against strong opposing point guards this season, but Rodney Stuckey is not the type of playmaker that can take down the Heat. Additionally, Richard Hamilton and Charlie Villanueva will struggle to match up defensively against Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

    Tayshaun Prince could use his length to slow down LeBron James somewhat, but the Heat will simply be too much for the Pistons.

    Expect a double-digit victory for the Heat:

    Prediction: Heat Win

Dec. 2, @Cleveland

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    J.D. Pooley/Getty Images

    In one of the most anticipated games of the NBA season, LeBron James will return to Cleveland wearing a Miami Heat jersey.

    The Cavaliers have performed better than expected this season without LeBron James and have started at a 7-9 clip. The Cavaliers have already beaten Boston and Atlanta this season, proving that when at their best, Cleveland can take down even the strongest of teams.

    The Cleveland players will certainly be motivated for James' return. Aside from Dan Gilbert, many of the players expressed feelings of betrayal after "The Decision". However, LeBron will also be motivated to get revenge on Dan Gilbert for the attack on his character following his departure from Cleveland.

    Both teams should come out with an extra boost of energy. The game will be nationally televised, and the players will be aware. There is no way LeBron embarrasses himself yet again on national television.

    The Heat win this one, but it will take a fourth quarter comeback as the Cavaliers will come out with extra motivation before the Heat wear them down.

    Prediction: Heat Win

Dec. 4, Vs. Atlanta

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The division rival Atlanta Hawks pay their first visit to South Beach in what will be Miami's third game in four nights. Atlanta has gotten out to a terrific start, going 11-7 in their first 18 games.

    Particularly impressive has been Atlanta's play on the road. Atlanta is 7-2 in away games this season compared to just 4-5 at home.

    The Hawks match up well against the Heat, particularly at the the point guard and center positions where Mike Bibby and Al Horford pose huge potential match up problems.

    The Heat will likely be victimized by fatigue after a tough road game in Cleveland and will fall in a disappointing loss to the road warrior Atlanta Hawks.

    Prediction: Heat Loss

Dec. 6, @Milwaukee

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The Heat begin a four game road trip against the Milwaukee Bucks on December 6th. Surprisingly, the Bucks have not played as well as expected considering they were a playoff team last season. Out to a 6-10 start, the Bucks have been hampered by injuries to Andrew Bogut and Carlos Delfino.

    Bogut, however, will likely be back in action well before the Heat travel to Milwaukee to take on the Bucks.

    Their record may not demonstrate it, but the Bucks have played good teams very close this year. Milwaukee has a talented roster and has been much better at home than on the road this season.

    The Bucks send Miami on a two game slide and win this one at home.

    Prediction: Heat Loss

Dec. 8, @Utah

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Traveling to face Utah, the Heat can get some measure of redemption against the Jazz after the November 9th loss when Utah stunned Miami in overtime after a fourth quarter comeback. Paul Millsap scored 46 against the Heat including the basket to tie the game in regulation in the best scoring performance to date against Miami.

    Miami will have something to prove in this game. The Jazz embarrassed Miami in their own house when they were able to come back so easily.

    The Heat after losing two in a row will need a victory desperately. LeBron James will repeat his triple-double performance of the previous game against Utah and Dwyane Wade will also repeat his high-scoring performance.

    Prediction: Heat Win

Dec. 10, @Golden State

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    The Heat continue the Western Conference road swing on Friday night against the Warriors. After a 6-2 start, the Warriors have stumbled to a 2-7 record in their last nine games.

    Undoubtedly, Miami will struggle to guard Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry. The speed and uptempo play of the Warriors' guards will test Carlos Arroyo, who is not the fastest defender.

    At the same time, the Warriors will struggle to find an answer for Dwyane Wade or LeBron James on the defensive end. Miami will like the uptempo style of play.

    In one of the highest scoring games in the NBA this year, Miami will come out victorious, and both teams will combine for over 250 points.

    Prediction: Heat Win

Dec. 11, @Sacramento Kings

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The Heat finish their road trip in Sacramento against the Kings. The Kings are once again bottom-feeders in the Western Conference and have begun with a 4-11 record.

    Aside from Tyreke Evans, no player on the Kings' roster should give Miami any trouble. Chris Bosh should take advantage of Carl Landry up front, while James and Wade should contribute big numbers offensively as well before sitting out the fourth quarter in a blowout.

    A win would give Miami a 3-1 road trip (according to these predictions) and their second three game winning streak of the season.

    Prediction: Heat Win

Dec. 13, Vs. New Orleans Hornets

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    In their first meeting on November 5th, the Miami Heat had trouble against the New Orleans Hornets, particularly at the point guard and center positions. Emeka Okafor shot 12 of 13 for 26 points and 13 rebounds. Chris Paul was held to just 13 points, but he also contributed 19 assists.

    The Hornets have cooled off after a hot start and appeared especially mortal as of late, losing four of their last five games. Miami will struggle to guard the size of New Orleans, a task even more difficult without the services of Udonis Haslem.

    The Hornets though may have difficulty playing a back to back, having to travel from Philadelphia overnight. It won't help the Heat win, but it should make it a close game.

    Prediction: Heat Loss

Dec. 15, Vs. Cleveland

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    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    Cleveland will visit Miami on December 15th in their second matchup of both the month and the season. The game will likely be a little less exciting. There will be no national television. The fans will have less invested in beating the opposition.

    Still, LeBron James will not want to lose to his former team, ever.  The Cavaliers will not have much to compete with Miami, and the talent levels on each side are simply incomparable. While that does not guarantee a win, Miami has been 9-1 on the season against teams with losing records.

    Expect Miami to win in double digits.

    Prediction: Heat Win

Dec. 17, @New York

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    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    After already visiting New Jersey and Cleveland, LeBron James will make his third stop on his tour of spurned teams during his free agent process. The New York Knicks fans will surely let LeBron have it, and unlike his visit to Cleveland, fans' signs will not be banned.

    Aside from the drama involved in the game, the Knicks are quietly having one of their best seasons in recent years. At 9-9, Amare Stoudemire and Raymond Felton have revolutionized the dynamics of this Knicks team. New York is fourth in the NBA in points scored and look more and more like a Mike D'Antoni offense.

    Still, the game will be nationally televised and the Heat will come in prepared. Neither team has a real defensive answer for the best scorers on the other team. In a shootout, the Heat's talent will show its muscle and take a win in a high-scoring affair.

    Prediction: Heat Win

Dec. 18, @Washington

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The Heat took the first meeting between these divisional opponents in an extremely chippy game. Hilton Armstrong was ejected from the game for a flagrant foul that was deemed excessive, and Juwan Howard was also thrown out of the game after pushing Armstrong to the ground. The Wizards were never really competitive in the game at any point.

    One reason the Wizards never got close was the absence of John Wall. Wall is the type of player Miami has really struggled with this season. Miami lacks real speed at the point guard position and Wall, as well as Gilbert Arenas will able to exploit Miami's deficiency. Additionally, JaVale McGee demonstrated that the Heat could struggle with athletic centers who can move around the basket.

    The Wizards, however, had no answer for either LeBron James or Dwyane Wade in the first meeting. For a Miami team that was struggling offensively, the Wizards put up little objection to the Heat's ball movement except for the hard fouls at the basket. Miami should be able to take this one on the road.

    Prediction: Heat Win

Dec. 20, Vs. Dallas

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    Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

    The Dallas Mavericks have owned the Miami Heat over the last seven years. Excluding the playoffs, Dallas has won 16 of the last 17 meetings between the two teams including the November 27th double digit victory for the Mavericks in Dallas.

    Less than a month later, the two teams will meet again in Miami. In the first game in Dallas, Miami repeated their struggles against talented centers and Tyson Chandler filled up the box score with 14 points and 17 rebounds.

    Miami will need some help from the supporting cast in this game or one of the Miami Thrice will have to come up with an especially big night. Don't expect too much help from the supporting cast, but perhaps Dwyane Wade will channel his 2006 Championship form to finally take one from the Mavericks.

    Prediction: Heat Win

Dec. 23, @Phoenix

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    In the first meeting between the two teams Miami took the victory in a blowout, 123-96. Chris Bosh had 35 points while sitting out the fourth quarter, and Miami held Steve Nash to just two assists.

    The Phoenix Suns have not been the same team without Amar'e Stoudemire this season. But the Suns are still scoring at a high clip. Phoenix is second in the NBA in points per game.

    Phoenix has particularly struggled this season against teams with winning records.

    In the first game, the Suns appeared to lack an answer for the size of LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Phoenix will have to dominate from beyond the arc in order to come out victorious in this game. The game will be much closer than Phoenix's trip to Miami, but the Heat will come out on top.

    Prediction: Heat Win

Dec. 25, @Los Angeles

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    In likely the most anticipated regular season game of the year, LeBron James and the Miami Heat will visit the Staples Center to take on the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.

    The Lakers have begun this season with the same dominance they have exhibited over the past few seasons. At 13-4, Kobe Bryant has not yet looked quite as sharp as his usual self, but Pau Gasol has stepped up this year and has become more of Kobe Bryant's equal than his second fiddle. Even without Andrew Bynum, the Lakers have the size around the basket that the Heat have truly struggled to combat this season.

    Miami may get Mike Miller back in time for this game, but that alone will likely not be enough. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will want this game badly, and Wade has proven he can beat the Lakers alone; however, the Lakers will use the home-court to help take this one.

    Prediction: Heat Loss

Dec. 28, Vs. New York

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    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    Miami will head home from Los Angeles to face the New York Knicks on the 28th for the second time in the month of December. Miami should definitely have Mike Miller back by this time giving the Heat a solidified fourth scoring option.

    Once again, New York will likely not be able to match up talent-wise against Miami. Amar'e Stoudemire should have another good game and Raymond Felton will also be able to use his speed against the slower Carlos Arroyo.

    New York will still have trouble handling the Miami Thrice, and the Heat should once again take this one from the Knicks in an easy win.

    Prediction: Heat Win

Dec. 29, @Houston

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    Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

    At 5-12, the Houston Rockets have taken an enormous step back this season. Expected to compete at a high level, the Rockets have stumbled out of the gate this year.

    The seemingly yearly injury to Yao Ming changes the dynamic of this Houston team and they are simply not the same group without him. Ming is expected back in early December, however. The Heat will not be able to stop Yao, and he will force Miami to take shots from the perimeter.

    Miami has really struggled when forced to shoot from the perimeter. The Heat could be surprised by the Rockets in this one.

    Prediction: Heat Loss

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