Miami Heat's hot start to season may be a false dawn - three reasons why

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The Miami Heat currently sit atop the Eastern Conference with a record of 12-6, and, coming off the back of a convincing win against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night, things appear to be looking up for the South Florida franchise after what was a difficult 2014-15 NBA season.

But, whilst fans may be relishing the sight of their team back at the summit in the East as post-LeBron James scars finally begin to heel, Miami's lofty status at this early stage of the season may be something of a false dawn.

There's no doubt the Heat have been playing at a high level through the first three months of the campaign, but several factors have combined to benefit Eric Spoelstra's men thus far and, in effect, set them up for a potential fall.


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Schedule Gods

Of their 18 games played to date, for instance, the franchise has played a cool 13 at their American Airlines Arena home, winning 10 of them.

Only one other team in the Eastern Conference - the Atlanta Hawks - has played more than 11 games on their own hardwood. The schedule Gods certainly shone on South Florida when it was put together this year.

In fairness to Miami, six of those 13 games have come against team's (currently) ranked in the playoff spots, and their two most recent Ws - against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Cleveland, respectively - have pitted them against two franchises with hopes of playing postseason basketball well into June next year.

Still, as with every yin there is a yang.

With a monster 12-game road trip beginning on January 8 and taking in visits to Oklahoma, Golden State, Chicago, Phoenix and Los Angeles (Clippers) Miami may well need to be double digit games above .500 in order to keep pace into the new year.

Dwyane Wade noted recently that the favorable schedule has helped breed confidence in a team that remains in transition, but he has played in the league long enough to know that any road game represents a tough challenge (unless you're Golden State).

Big name absentees

Another friendly quirk in circumstances so far this season happens to be how often the three-time NBA champions seem to have avoided star names on the opposition's lineup.

As well as facing a LeBron-less Cavaliers on Saturday evening, the Heat roster have side-stepped having to go up against Dwight Howard (Rockets), Demarcus Cousins (Kings) and Rudy Gobert (Jazz) - three star players who play pivotal roles in their respective teams.

Oh, and Kobe Bryant also sat out the Lakers-Heat game back on November 10. Hey, no matter how bad the Black Mamba has been playing, a Lakers with him is still a better Lakers team!

This strange quirk can't continue to hold true throughout the rest of the season. Eventually, Miami's 2nd ranked defense will have to consistently go up against the best their rivals can offer. If they can remain at an elite standard then, then credit will rightly be due.

Three point plan

The Heat have also benefitted from a peculiar phenomenon that the Warriors, too, are embracing right now - a healthy roster.

Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic - four cogs that will be key to the Heat's potential success this season - have missed a combined two games this season. If injuries do come, particularly to Bosh or Wade, their limited depth may be exposed.

And with 16 back-to-backs to come (they've only played one so far) rotation will become a factor, at the very least.

Of course, despite all the hurdles on the horizon for Miami, the 2013-14 champions could go on to hurdle the oncoming road schedule, face, and beat, the best players and stay healthy for the remainder.

If they can do all that, then that false dawn may become very real. For now, though, Miami may just be enjoying the perfect NBA storm considering what lies ahead.

NBA fans: Are the Miami Heat the real deal this season? Have your say in the comments below...

Miami Heat
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