The Miami Heat will try to improve on their current western trip Wednesday night, but the task won't be easy against the Golden State Warriors.
The Heat are 1-3 thus far and Wednesday's game will the fifth of six out west. They close the odyssey with a high-profile battle with the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, but there's no way the Heat are looking past the Warriors.
On Dec. 12, the Warriors went into South Beach and pulled out a 97-95 victory, their first in Miami since Mar. 7, 2008. The Warriors were on game five of a seven-game eastern swing and that victory vaulted them to 5-0 on the trip. They fell in Orlando two nights later, but that win was the signature victory for the league's most surprising team.
"Nationally, it, kind of, not put us on the map, but got people talking," said Warriors forward David Lee. "It's nice, that national spotlight, for a couple of days."
Fast-forward a month and the Heat are 10-6 since that loss, but only 3-4 in the month of January. Their most recent setback on this long voyage came Monday night in Utah, falling to the Jazz, 104-97.
Utah was 21 points clear in the third quarter, but Miami fired off a monster rally. A 21-5 over the third and fourth frames got the Heat within two, but the Jazz held their ground.
"It was a great comeback coming into the quarter. Our guys really played their hearts out, really competed. Everything has got to go right if you are down 20, but we gave it a shot," Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said.
LeBron James led the way, as always, with 32 points. Five other Heat players scored in double figures, but none higher than Chris Bosh's 16.
The Warriors head into Wednesday night's contest the losers of three of their last four. Golden State is only 2-3 since New Year's Day, but all five games came against teams currently in playoff position.
But the Warriors have handled the NBA's best this season. They are 11-4 against teams with records over .500.
Golden State lost its last time out, a 116-105 setback Sunday in Denver. Steph Curry paced the Warriors with 29 points, while David Lee added 23 points and 13 rebounds and Harrison Barnes chipped in 21.
The Warriors have lost back-to-back games only twice this season. It happened on Jan. 5 and 9, but before that you have to go back to early November. A loss to the Heat would be consecutive losses and would awfully close to the back- to-back losses just last week.
"We're not going to panic," head coach Mark Jackson said after practice on Tuesday. "We know who we are."
The Warriors not only won this season's matchup in Miami, but they took the only game the two teams played last season, a 111-106 overtime thriller on Jan. 10, 2012. The Heat won six in a row prior to that win almost one year ago exactly.