MEMPHIS — For the next month, Miami mostly will be a mirage for the Heat.
In many ways, like those visiting Kaseya Center, they merely will be passing through.
“Buckle up,” coach Erik Spoelstra said, “This is not for the weak.”
But it will be room service and flights for weeks.
To put into perspective what the Heat are facing as they still try to gain their legs at the start of this season, consider that until landing in South Florida the Sunday after Thanksgiving, they will be spending a grand total of about 48 hours in South Florida.
Tuesday, that meant taking flight for an eight-day, four-game trip that opens Wednesday against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum.
That trip will be followed by a homestand of exactly . . . one game, on Nov. 16 against the Brooklyn Nets.
Then it will be back to the road for a nine-day, five-game trip that opens Nov. 18 against the Chicago Bulls and does not have the Heat back in South Florida until Nov. 26.
By the time the trip is over, the Heat will have played a league-high 12 of their first 17 games on the road.
“No better place to do it than on the road,” said Spoelstra, who also has no choice. “It’s going to catch our attention, that’s for sure. Basically the better part of this month, we’re gone. So we have an eight-day trip, come back for two days, 48 hours, and back out for nine days.”
While the schedule eases at that stage, even then there is no certainty because of the NBA’s new In-Season Tournament that has the first week of December as a blank slate for the entire NBA. It is possible the Heat have three more road games that week, possibly two in Las Vegas, before then heading out for yet another road game on Dec. 11 to Charlotte. That could make it 13 of the next 17 on the road.
It is why Monday night’s harrowing 108-107 victory over the visiting Los Angeles Lakers was so vital. Because the next time it goes sideways late in a game, as it has in each home game this season for Spoelstra’s team, it likely will happen on the unforgiving road.
“I think we’ve just got to continue to push the pace,” point guard Kyle Lowry said. “We’ve got to stay locked in to what we’ve done the first 3 1/2 quarters and we’ve got to continue to play the same way.
“I like where we’re going.”
Only, he did not realize how long.
Told eight of the next nine games are on the road, Lowry said, “Really?”
Which made the getaway win all the more important.
“Definitely wanted to end this homestand on a W,” center Bam Adebayo said.
The Heat depart, coming off consecutive wins.
“We’ll continue to figure this out,” Spoelstra said. “It’s much better to finish it out when you get a win. There were a lot more good things in this game than negatives. I’m not going to be a downer about this one. It’s a good win. Obviously, we have to clean up some of the things.”
Mostly, clean up the fourth quarters.
The Heat departed with the NBA’s worst net rating in the fourth quarter this season, outscored by 25.3 points in the fourth per 100 possessions. The offense essentially stops, with the Heat with the NBA’s 29th offensive rating in the fourth, outscored by a league-worst 6.5 points in fourth quarters, with no other team outscored by more than 4.3.
“The biggest thing for us,” Adebayo said, “is when we get to the fourth quarter, is really hone in and have a real conversation and stop letting this happen.”
“We had an upsetting last road trip,” Adebayo said. “So we’re looking to make it different this road trip and collect some wins.”