Heat 2021 Schedule: Top Games, Updated Championship Odds and PredictionsFebruary 24, 2021
The first half of the season has been a struggle for the Miami Heat, but the Eastern Conference champions still have a chance to make a run at the postseason after the All-Star break.
Injuries have played a key role in Miami's 14-17 start to this point. Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, Goran Dragic and Kendrick Nunn have all missed at least seven games. Herro hasn't taken off as expected in his second season, averaging 17.1 points per game with a 34.4 three-point percentage.
The biggest bright spot for the Heat has been Bam Adebayo. He's held the team afloat amid all the other roster issues around him. They also benefit from playing in the Southeast Division, which doesn't have one team with a winning record at this point.
Looking ahead to the second half, here's the schedule that the Heat will face as they try to get back on track and key matchups that will help determine their status in the East.
2020-21 Miami Heat Schedule Details
Second-Half Opener: vs. Orlando Magic on March 11 at 8 p.m. ET
Championship Odds: +3600 (via FanDuel) (bet $100 to win $3,600)
Second-Half Schedule: NBA.com
Charlotte Hornets (March 26 and May 2)
Given the state of the Southeast Division, the Charlotte Hornets look like the favorites to win it. They sit in the top spot, despite their 14-16 record.
Since the NBA expanded to its current six-division format prior to the 2004-05 season, no team has won a division with a losing record. The worst record among a division winner in an 82-game season was 44-38, which was done three times (2005-06 Denver Nuggets, 2006-07 Miami Heat, and 2017-18 Miami Heat).
On paper, the Heat look like the most talented team in the division. Butler is a five-time All-Star and one of the best two-way players in the league. Herro averaged 16 points and shot 37.5 percent from three-point range in 21 playoff games last season as a rookie.
Dragic is a veteran point guard who can score and set up his teammates to get easy buckets. Adebayo is a superstar and the face of Heat basketball at just 23 years old.
Despite all of Miami's talent, the Hornets have been the most-buzzed-about team in the division thanks to LaMelo Ball. The rookie point guard became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double when he accomplished the feat in January.
Gordon Hayward is having an All-Star caliber season for the Hornets with 21.9 points per game and 42.4 percent three-point shooting.
In the only matchup between these two teams during the first half, Charlotte earned a 129-121 overtime victory on Feb. 1.
New York Knicks (March 29)
The Heat and New York Knicks used to have one of the best rivalries in the NBA, but the Knicks have been irrelevant for most of the past two decades in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau currently has the Knicks in the seventh seed in the east, though their 15-17 record certainly leaves a lot to be desired.
In some ways, the Knicks and Heat play very similar styles of basketball. Both are carried by excellent defenses that make up for some of their deficiencies on the offensive end. New York leads the league in fewest points allowed per game (103.8) and ranks third in defensive rating.
As good as the Knicks defense is, they rank last in points scored per game (103.6) and are 23rd in rating.
Miami's defensive rating to this point ranks eighth, three spots higher than it was in 2019-20, but the offense has fallen off a cliff. It ranks 25th in offensive rating and 26th in points per game.
If the Knicks want to make the playoffs, they have to start beating fringe contenders like the Heat. Miami won both meetings between these two teams in the first half on Feb. 7 and 9.
Even though the Heat made a run to the NBA Finals last season, there were some indications before the postseason that they may not be as good as it once seemed.
After starting the 2019-20 campaign with a 32-14 record, they played their final 27 regular-season games under .500 (12-15). That trend has continued in 2020-21, though they can cite injuries as the main reason why.
Now that the Heat are as close to healthy as they have been all season, the second half is when we should start to see what the real version of this team is going to be. They have an All-NBA player in Adebayo who can carry them, but Butler and Herro have to play like they did in the postseason to give them a chance to avoid the play-in tournament.
Until the offense shows any semblance of consistency, though, it's hard to see how Miami can escape the bottom tier of East playoff teams.
Record Prediction: 35-37
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