The Road Back to the Finals: 9 Things to Watch with the Release of the 2023-24 Schedule

The 2023-2024 schedule is hot off the presses. Gear up for the upcoming NBA season by checking out all 82 of our games plus preseason right here. As always, we’ll highlight some of the juiciest matchups of the year and tell you what to keep an eye on. We’ll also focus on a few matchups taking place during the new NBA In-Season Tournament and the implications behind Miami’s upcoming battles in the newly formed East Group B. Let’s dive in:

1. Back in Boston for the First Road Game of the Year
The HEAT stamped their ticket to the NBA Finals last season by throttling the Boston Celtics at the TD Garden, winning a Game 7 on the road for the first time in franchise history. With these two clubs having met one another in the Eastern Conference Finals three times in the past four years, it is safe to say the HEAT and the Celtics are the class of the East and are poised to cross paths in their respective runs to the Finals yet again.

The HEAT will face off against Boston on October 27th in a nationally televised matchup, and this iteration of Boston will look a bit different than the club Miami faced just months prior. Gone is longtime starting point guard Marcus Smart, and in comes 7’3” former All-Star Kristaps Porzingis. Boston will boast one of the tallest frontlines (and possibly one of the tallest starting lineups in the league) next season, and Porzingis offers the Cs another capable 20+ point scorer to run offense through. With Smart (a former Defensive Player of the Year) gone however, the Celtics are hoping Malcolm Brogdan, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year award winner, can fill in his role as a starter in the backcourt.

2. HEAT Kick Off In-Season Tournament Against New-Look Wizards
The HEAT’s debut Group Play match of the In-Season Tournament will be against the Washington Wizards on Friday, November 3rd. The Wizards have overhauled their roster, losing leading scorers Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis, but adding scoring-oriented Jordan Poole and well-rounded point guard Tyus Jones to form their new backcourt while retaining the ascendant Kyle Kuzma in the frontcourt.

3. Wembanyama vs Bam
The HEAT will get to meet 7’4” rookie phenom Victor Wembanyama quite early in the season, traveling to San Antonio to face the Spurs on November 12th. The first overall pick of the 2023 NBA Draft is widely expected to be a frontrunner for Rookie of the Year and with newly-inducted Hall-of-Fame coach Gregg Popovich mentoring the 19-year-old, it will be quite an opportunity to see where the big man’s game stands as he gets to challenge Adebayo, one of the most singularly talented defenders in the league who nonetheless will be giving up roughly seven inches in the matchup.

4. Black Friday Battle in Madison Square Garden
The HEAT will make their first sojourn to the Big Apple and face off against the New York Knicks on November 24th in a nationally televised game. If you remember, the HEAT took down the Knicks in six games during last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals, the first time these two clubs met in the playoff since 2012.

Notably, this is an In-Season Tournament match as the Knicks and HEAT are both in East Group B, so the implications are a bit greater than your typical late-November game. The Knicks have brought back most of their roster, adding swingman Donte DiVincenzo in free agency. Miami will again hope that Bam Adebayo (18.7 PPG, 9.7 RPG against NY in the playoffs) is the best big man on the floor against the Knicks duo of Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson.

5. HEAT wrap up Group Play by Welcoming Bucks
The HEAT will host Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks as they close out the Group Play stage of the In-Season Tournament on November 28th. Depending on how East Group B performs leading up to this matchup, this game could very well be the deciding factor in who gets to advance to the Knockout Round of the Tournament. Beyond In-Season Tournament implications, the Bucks will be looking to avenge their shocking first-round exit at the hands of the HEAT. Jimmy Butler averaged a HEAT-playoff series record 37.6 PPG against the Bucks in last season’s opening playoff round and will likely need to summon some more heroics to help Miami potentially advance in the new tournament.

6. Christmas in Miami: HEAT Face off Against 76ers
The Miami HEAT make their return to Christmas-Day hoops, squaring off against the Philadelphia 76ers at 8:00 PM. The HEAT have an all-time record of 11-2 on Christmas and are a perfect 8-0 during the tenure of HEAT head coach Erik Spoelstra. They look to continue gifting HEAT fans with Christmas joy and hope to leave a lump of coal in reigning league MVP Joel Embiid’s stocking. This will be the first time these two clubs have matched up on December 25th, with Miami having previously played Chicago (1997), Los Angeles (2004-2006; 2013), Cleveland (2007, 2014), New York (2009), Dallas (2011), and Oklahoma City (2012).

7 & 8. West Coast Trip Features Lakers, Suns Showdowns
The HEAT begin their annual west coast road trip a few days after Christmas and will be on the road for five consecutive matchups. Sandwiched in the middle is a faceoff against the Los Angeles Lakers on January 3rd. The Lakers bolstered their depth by signing former HEAT guard Gabe Vincent in free agency and still feature one of the league’s fiercest duos in LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

After Los Angeles, it will be a short turnaround to face the new-look Phoenix Suns, who acquired former Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal in the offseason to give themselves a formidable trio of Beal, Devin Booker, and Kevin Durant. It will also be Durant’s first time facing the HEAT since he joined the Phoenix Suns.

9. Leap Year Day Showdown in Denver
Miami will attempt to avenge their NBA Finals loss when they return to the Ball Arena and face the defending champion Denver Nuggets on February 29th. While Miami has historically had a bit of a tough time playing in Denver, they managed to win Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Denver’s home floor, riding 17 made threes and a combined 42 points from Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.

Denver lost key bench player (and former University of Miami guard) Bruce Brown to free agency, but is otherwise bringing back their same starting lineup from a season ago and will continue to feature one of the league’s fiercest offenses behind the world-historic passing and scoring of current Finals MVP Nikola Jokic. Interestingly, Miami poached one of Denver’s own, Thomas Bryant, in free agency this past offseason. They will need all the size and skill they can muster in order to effectively match up against the Nuggets.