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Heat 2020-21 Schedule: Top Games, Championship Odds and Record Prediction

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 4, 2020

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler drives around Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James during the second half in Game 4 of basketball's NBA Finals Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

The Miami Heat exceeded projections by reaching the 2020 NBA Finals before falling short against LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers. Now, the question is how they'll respond to the burden of expectations after last season's memorable playoff run.

Jimmy Butler returns to lead an otherwise up-and-coming roster also featuring Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson. The Heat also added first-round pick Precious Achiuwa to bolster the rotation in what's shaping up to be a deeper Eastern Conference.

"I'm so comfortable with being myself—more than I've ever been," Butler told reporters before the Finals. "Not saying I've ever not wanted to be myself, but now I know 'myself' is the right way."

It's a mindset that helped the Heat reach the NBA's championship series for the first time since 2014, and now another deep postseason run is expected.

Let's check out all of the important information following the league's first-half schedule release Friday. That's followed by a season preview and prediction for Miami.

               

2020-21 Heat Schedule Details

Season Opener: Heat at Orlando Magic; Dec. 23 at 7 p.m. ET

Championship Odds: 20-1 (via FanDuel Sportsbook)

First-Half Schedule: NBA.com

            

Top Matchups

Los Angeles Lakers (Feb. 20 at Lakers)

The Lakers proved themselves as the NBA's gold standard by dispatching the Heat in six games during the Finals. Their rematches during the upcoming campaign will once again provide Butler and Co. with a measuring stick of their progress.

Miami dealt with key injuries in the Finals, with both Adebayo and Goran Dragic missing games, and the deeper Lakers looked like the far more rested side in the deciding Game 6. L.A. would have still been the favorite under a scenario where both sides were healthy, but the series may have gone the distance.

Aside from the rematch storyline, any head-to-head battle between Butler and James is starting to become must-see TV. They went back and forth in the final minutes of Game 5 in what may ultimately go down as one of the best performances in the Heat star's career.

               

Brooklyn Nets (Jan. 23 at Nets)

All eyes will be on the Nets as the partnership of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving takes center stage after a one-year delay brought on by KD's recovery from a ruptured Achilles.

As the Lakers illustrated, a tandem of two superstars is enough to immediately vault a team toward championship contention. Brooklyn has a lot of variables in play, including a first-time head coach in Hall of Fame guard Steve Nash, but the talent is undoubtedly there.

In turn, Miami will be forced to show its more collaborative approach is capable of taking down a team with two high-end scoring options. It wouldn't be a shock to see the Heat and Nets face off for the East title come playoff time.

            

Season Forecast

The Heat arrived in the championship conversation a year or two earlier than expected, and there's no reason to believe they'll leave it anytime soon.

It's unclear whether they have the makeup to become a dominant regular-season squad, especially with the East starting to become more competitive as a whole. Seeding will be more important if the 2021 playoffs are held more traditionally at home arenas with fans in the stands.

A lot will depend on whether Herro and Robinson can take the next step toward stardom by building on their strong showings throughout the playoffs. Adebayo's steady rise suggests he'll be one of the league's most efficient interior forces in the year ahead.

The Heat should finish the regular season around 50 wins, which should be good enough to earn them home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The difference at the top of the conference should only be a handful of games, so there's plenty of room for movement even with a few extra victories.

After that, anything less than another appearance in the conference finals would be a disappointment based on their success in 2020.

    

Record Prediction: 45-27

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