With a little more than a month left before the start of the 2023-24 NBA season, Pelicans.com writer Jim Eichenhofer shares an opponent and matchup breakdown of the Top 10 games for Pelicans fans to watch at the Smoothie King Center this season.
Miami Heat vs. New Orleans Pelicans
Friday, Feb. 23 (9 p.m., ESPN)
🎟️ FIND TICKETS
Why it’s on the list
Defending Eastern Conference champion Miami has been a late-postseason participant nearly every season since Jimmy Butler’s arrival in 2019, twice reaching the NBA Finals and coming within a three-point shot of a third title-round appearance. Butler’s determination and ability to take over games led the No. 8 Heat to a historic, stunning playoff upset over top-seeded Milwaukee this spring; Miami later eliminated higher-seeded New York and Boston before falling to Denver in five games. In addition to Butler, center Bam Adebayo and an array of quality role players make the Heat dangerous.
Pelicans players to watch
New Orleans has not enjoyed much team or individual success vs. Miami in recent years, dropping six straight matchups, but the Heat are one of two opponents against which Zion Williamson has averaged a double-double in his career. On Christmas of his second NBA season, the southpaw forward went for 32 points and 14 rebounds in South Florida, shooting 11/20 from the floor. Last season, Jonas Valanciunas averaged 16.0 points and 13.0 rebounds in the pair of Miami meetings, going 15/25 on field goals.
Where it falls on the New Orleans schedule
After a very difficult stretch prior to the All-Star break – separate four-game road trips sandwiched around a solitary home tilt vs. Toronto – the latter portion of February could be very significant for New Orleans. Bridging the midseason hiatus, the Pelicans have four consecutive home games, with Miami being the lone opponent during the span that qualified for the 2023 playoffs. The Heat also launches nine straight Pelicans contests against the East.
Other 2023-24 games between these teams
Friday, March 22, New Orleans at Miami (NBA TV)
New Orleans Pelicans 2023-24 NBA Schedule Release Video
New Orleans led the all-time series 20-19 entering the pandemic-impacted 2020-21 season, but starting with Miami’s head-to-head victory on Christmas of that shortened 72-game campaign, the Heat have gone 6-0 against the Pelicans, regaining a 25-20 edge. Back when New Orleans was a member of the Eastern Conference, the Heat outlasted the then-Hornets in Game 7 of a 2004 first-round playoff series. Rookie guard Dwyane Wade set the tone for his Hall of Fame career by winning Game 1 with a floater in the paint in the final seconds.
Highlighting a memorable New Orleans win
March 6, 2020: New Orleans 110, Miami 104
After starting the season at just 7-23, the Pelicans turned things around by going 21-13 over their next 34 games, prior to Covid putting a halt to everything. This was New Orleans’ final home game before that surreal stoppage (March 8 featured a win at Minnesota; March 11 was supposed to be a game in Sacramento). The Pelicans’ most recent triumph over the Heat in series history was highlighted by rookie Williamson scoring 17 points on 7/9 shooting, in his 18th career game.