After playing 14 of its first 23 games this season at home, things are about to get tougher for the Heat.
Next up is a flight to the other side of the country to begin a six-game trip, which is tied for its longest road trip of the season. The Heat’s only other six-game stretch away from home comes in February.
For now, the Heat’s focus is on the trip that begins Friday night in Phoenix against the rebuilding Suns. Playing better and more consistent basketball is Miami’s goal after a disappointing 9-14 start to the season.
“It’s obviously challenging for every team when they go on the road in the Western Conference, Eastern Conference, especially for us at this time,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. “We’re just trying to find our identity, and having our ups and downs throughout the year. To go on a long road trip, it can make you or break you. It’ll pull you together.
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“We’re hoping that on this road trip we’ll be able to play some good basketball, put some good games together, come out of this trip even more confident.”
Putting good games together has been an issue for the Heat. Even putting good quarters together has been a challenge most nights.
Inconsistency from night to night, quarter to quarter has hurt the Heat all season. Miami’s longest winning streak is just two, and it has been outscored by double digits in at least one quarter in five of its last six losses.
“It’s a different league now. It’s a different day I think from a basketball standpoint,” Wade said when asked if the long trip will help the team’s off-court bond. “Guys in this locker room are close. Each individual, we all mess with each other in this locker room. We’ve got great relationships.
“A lot of times you go out West and you hope to build a closer bond. The bond in the locker room is great. It’s just about being consistent on the court is probably the biggest thing with this team and trying to figure that out. So that’s what we’ll be trying to do out there because if you don’t, you can come back 0-6.”
While the Heat’s defense has fallen out of the top 10 (entered Thursday ranked 11th in defensive rating), its offense is a bigger problem.
Miami owns the fourth-worst offensive rating in the league (105.2 points scored per 100 possessions entering Thursday). The only teams worse than the Heat in this area are the struggling Suns (4-20), Hawks (5-20) and Bulls (5-20).
The Heat couldn’t take advantage of a favorable early-season schedule, with a 5-9 record at home and eight of its losses coming against opponents under the .500 mark.
A tougher stretch now awaits Miami, a six-game trip that includes four games against teams that are .500 or better — the Clippers (16-8), Lakers (15-9), Grizzlies (14-9) and Pelicans (13-13).
This road trip is a chance for the Heat to move past the Hassan Whiteside drama surrounding his early exit from Tuesday’s loss to the Magic. It’s a chance for the Heat to forget about its strange 0-6 record in the new “Vice Nights” uniform. It’s an opportunity for the Heat to show it’s actually better than its current record.
Most importantly, this road trip is a chance for the Heat to find solutions to its issues.
“We’ve got to go out there and we’ve got to figure out a way to play our game, the game that’s successful for us,” Wade said. “That game that’s successful for us is a hard game to play. And that’s why we haven’t been able to do it every night.”