Cup of Joe Presented by Café Bustelo: The 10 Games You Can’t Miss From The HEAT's Second Half

Cup of Joe, Café Bustelo, Miami HEAT
by Joe Beguiristain

When the league announced the regular-season schedule for all 30 teams back on Dec. 4, all we knew was the first half of the docket.

Now we finally know the rest.

After the All-Star Break from March 5 – 10, the HEAT will play 36 games from March 11 – May 16, including a makeup game against the Celtics that was originally scheduled for Jan. 10 (more on that one later).

Once the regular season commences, there will be a play-in tournament consisting of the seventh through tenth seeds in each conference to determine the final two spots in the playoffs on both sides. But hopefully, we won’t have to worry about that.

Coming off a 4-3 west coast road trip, the HEAT are now 10th in the East at 14-17, but just two games back of the fourth-seeded Pacers with five games remaining in the first half. And as Erik Spoelstra mentioned recently regarding the crowded Eastern Conference, “what I see is opportunity.”

Spo knows.

Alright, enough with the formalities. Let’s break down these matchups and take a look at the 10 games you can't miss from the second half of the season.

Remember These Guys? – March 19 vs Pacers

Oddly enough, this will be the first meeting between the HEAT and Pacers since Miami swept Indy back in late August. (The only other teams in the East that the HEAT won’t play in the first half are the Bulls and Cavs.)

And among that trio of teams, the Pacers seem to be more of a threat in the playoff race. Again, Indy is fourth in the conference thanks in large part to Malcolm Brogdon’s scoring off the bounce, Domantas Sabonis’ do-it-all nature on the offensive end and Myles Turner’s rim protection.

Keep in mind that T.J. Warren has been out for most of this season with a stress fracture in his left foot, and Caris LeVert could potentially make his debut at some point down the road.

If those guys come back at some point in the second half, this is a team to be wary of.

Other matchups during the second half: March 21 in Miami & March 31 in Indiana.

Prior matchups during the first half: None.

CP3 Making A Difference – March 23 vs Suns

Chris Paul and Devin Booker

You may remember that Phoenix just missed the postseason last year despite going a perfect 8-0 in the bubble. But now with CP3 at the helm, the team has a legitimate shot to make it for the first time in 11 years. Yes, 11.

From the start, Paul has been a fantastic leader on and off the floor (and has totaled six games of 12 of more assists, including a league-high 19 against the Pelicans on Feb. 19), Devin Booker has continued to be remarkable offensively, and former HEAT forward Jae Crowder has done his thing defensively.

Add it all up, and you got the fourth seed in the West.

Other matchups during the second half: April 13 in Phoenix.

Prior matchups during the first half: None.

Dame Time – March 25 vs Blazers (TNT)

Here comes another tough team from the Western Conference that the HEAT have yet to face…the Portland Trail Blazers.

While the Blazers have dealt with a bunch of injuries this season, including a major one to C.J. McCollum, they’ve continued to plug away behind the brilliance of Damian Lillard. (Who else?)

As usual, Lillard has been a terror in the pick-and-roll all year and has recorded 18 30-point games (tied with Bradley Beal for most in the league).

Meanwhile, former HEATer Derrick Jones Jr. has continued to be a menace on the defensive end for his new squad.

Long story short, the HEAT will have their hands full, but you know they’ll be up to the task.

Other matchups during the second half: April 11 in Portland (NBA TV).

Prior matchups during the first half: None.

Watch Out For Steph – April 1 vs Warriors

When the HEAT and Warriors last met on Feb. 17, Miami built a nice lead until Steph Curry was Steph Curry down the stretch.

And with Draymond Green, James Wiseman and Kevon Looney possibly back for this one, things could be even tougher for the HEAT.

No excuses, though. Miami will need to have all hands on deck in order to stop the two-time MVP, avenge its prior loss and ultimately protect home court.

Other matchups during the second half: None.

Prior matchups during the first half: Feb. 17: HEAT 112 – Warriors 120 (OT).

Finals Rematch Part II – April 8 vs Lakers (TNT)

Jimmy Butler and LeBron James

Sure, the HEAT may have benefited from Anthony Davis and Dennis Schröder being out of their prior matchup with the Lakers on Feb. 20, but all that matters is Miami (who was undermanned too) got the win.

Now, LA will obviously be much more difficult to beat if AD and Schröder are back in the lineup for this national TV game.

Jimmy’s gonna have to be Jimmy.

Other matchups during the second half: None.

Prior matchups during the first half: Feb. 20: HEAT 96 – Lakers 94.

Trying To Solve Denver – April 14 at Nuggets

The Nuggets are just a pain, aren’t they?

Miami has had its troubles with the team from the Mile High City (outside of the bubble shellacking), but that’s to be expected with Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray running the show for Denver. And to make matters worse, Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragić and Tyler Herro were all out of their last showdown on Jan. 27.

Revenge game on tap?

Other matchups during the second half: None.

Prior matchups during the first half: Jan. 27: Nuggets 109 – HEAT 82.

One More Against KD, Kyrie & Harden– April 18 vs Nets (ESPN)

Although Bam Adebayo has balled out against Brooklyn this season – who could forget his career-high 41-point performance on Jan. 23 when he traded buckets with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant down the stretch? – it ultimately hasn’t been enough in the end.

Butler didn’t play in the prior two meetings, so his presence on both ends should change some things. Remember, the Nets are an offensive juggernaut, but they still struggle to get stops.

This one will be very interesting if everyone remains healthy.

Other matchups during the second half: None.

Prior matchups during the first half: Jan. 23: HEAT 124 – Nets 128 & Jan. 25: HEAT 85 – Nets 98.

The Makeup Game – May 9 at Celtics (ESPN)

Duncan Robinson

The HEAT were slated to face the Celtics twice in five days in early January, but their game in Boston on Jan. 10 was postponed due to health and safety protocols.

Enter this Sunday Showcase game on Mother’s Day.

The last time these two teams met on Jan. 6, Miami erased multiple double-digit deficits thanks to Butler and Duncan Robinson, but Payton Pritchard came through with the go-ahead putback to give Boston the 107-105 victory.

We’ll see if the HEAT can exact revenge against Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and of course, Pritchard.

Other matchups during the second half: May 11 in Boston.

Prior matchups during the first half: Jan. 6: Celtics 107 – HEAT 105.

A Real Barometer…Hopefully – May 13 vs Sixers

Although the HEAT have faced the Sixers twice in Philly, we really don’t know how these two teams stack up against each other due to contact tracing and guys being out.

Case in point: Miami had just eight available players in both matchups, yet Herro scored a regular-season career-high 34 points and helped force OT in the first meeting on Jan. 12.

Especially with this game being so close to the playoffs, hopefully we’ll see Butler and Adebayo versus Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid for the first time all year.

You know it’s always a good time.

Other matchups during the second half: None.

Prior matchups during the first half: Jan. 12: HEAT 134 – Sixers 137 (OT) & Jan. 14: HEAT 108 – Sixers 125.

The Rubber Match – May 15 at Bucks

Back in late December, the HEAT and Bucks went to battle on back-to-back nights in Miami.

Aaand let’s just say the first meeting on Dec. 29 wasn’t fun.

Seriously though, the HEAT bounced back from a 47-point loss against Milwaukee in that one and rallied late to beat the Bucks nearly 24 hours later.

Per usual, Dragić rallied the troops on a 31-8 run and scored nine points in the fourth to ensure the victory.

It’s no secret that Miami has missed the Dragon’s offensive production of late, so hopefully he’ll be good to go well in advance of this important contest.

Other matchups during the second half: None.

Prior matchups during the first half: Dec. 29: Bucks 144 – HEAT 97 & Dec. 30: Bucks 108 – HEAT 119.

Until next time.

Fast Facts

Back-to-Backs 9
Multi-Day Breaks 5
Longest Homestand (Teams) 4 games from March 19 – March 25 (IND, IND, PHX, POR) and from April 1 – April 8 (GSW, CLE, MEM, LAL)
Longest Road Trip (Teams) 4 games from April 11 – April 16 (POR, PHX, DEN, MIN)
National TV Games 5

See the full second half schedule here.

Photos courtesy of NBAE/Getty Images and HEAT

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