Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 9/5/13

The first half of the Miami Heat’s season is filled with tough matchups. The All-Star weekend for this season will be held in New Orleans from February 13-17, 2014 and will be a nice respite for the Heat after a tough first half. Most likely LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will be representing the Eastern Conference, making the game exciting to watch. According to ESPN news, former L.A. Lakers legend Magic Johnson said he would pay LeBron James $1 million dollars if he joined the dunk contest. The NBA currently pays $100,000 to the winner and $50,000 to the runner-up so James definitely can’t blame it on the money. It’s hard to get good athletes in the dunk contest due to the possibility of injury but the fans deserve a show and it would be awesome to see LeBron James and Blake Griffin throw down. While the exciting events and games of the All-Star break will be entertaining, the Heat have to get back to business after the 17th. On February 18th, the Heat play at Dallas to face off with Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks. Then on the 20th they travel to Oklahoma City to play the Thunder, led by the dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. After those two tough road games the Heat head back to American Airlines Arena and play the Chicago Bulls on the 23rd and the New York Knicks on the 27th: these games highlight the month’s schedule for Miami. The beginning of March marks another tough road trip for Miami. On March 4th, 6th, and 9th, they will travel to Houston, San Antonio, and Chicago to play the Rockets, Spurs, and Bulls. After that tough trip they have 4 straight home games then head out of town again on the 18th and 19th to play the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics. The rest of March won’t be too bad for the Heat, but they do have a notable away game against the Indiana Pacers on the 26th. The month of April is usually the month that the Heat separate themselves from other superior teams around the NBA. These past 3 seasons, it seems like they hit another gear and played at a level that made them seem impossible to beat in a 7 games series. Looking at the April schedule, it looks like this can happen again. April 2nd and 4th they host the Milwaukee Bucks and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Then on the 6th and 8th they host the Knicks and Nets. They only have 3 road games the entire month: they travel to Memphis April 9th, Atlanta on the 12th, and Washington on the 14th. The Knicks and Nets games could be challenging but with the way Miami has played in the past at the end of the season, I believe they’ll send the league a message: they want a 3-peat. During this time Miami will be playing for the best record and home court advantage for the playoffs, so these games in April will be important and exciting as the playoff picture takes shape. Overall, the Heat have a tough schedule with several road games against top teams from the Eastern and Western conferences. They have a lot of home games against teams who gave them trouble last year during the playoffs so those games will be intense. Going into this season, the Heat of course want to defend their title and continue the legacy that owner Pat Riley built by getting LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen to join Dwyane Wade in Miami. I’m excited for this 2013-2014 season because I believe the Heat will 3-peat but it definitely won’t be easy, it wasn’t last season.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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Best of Yardbarker: Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines

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