In less than two weeks, it will be for real at AmericanAirlines Arena, with championship rings to be presented before the Oct. 30 season opener against the Celtics.
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In addition to opening the 2012-13 regular season on Oct. 30 at AmericanAirlines Arena against the Boston Celtics, in a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference finals, the Heat will play 14 of their first 22 games at home. Included in that home run will be a stretch of 10 of 11 at home from Nov. 21 through Dec. 18.
There will, however, be an early challenge for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, a six-game road trip that opens Nov. 9 in Atlanta and takes them to the west coast, a trip that includes games against the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets.
The opener against the Celtics marks the 17th time in their 25 seasons the Heat will open at home.
After the 2011-12 lockout-compacted season that shortened most season series, the Heat again will host each Western Conference team and play in each Western Conference city. Last season, the Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Clippers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz did not visit AmericanAirlines Arena.
To balance the schedule, however, the Heat will play three-game season series against four Eastern Conference opponents, with four-game series against the rest of the conference. The Heat will make only single visits to the Brooklyn Nets and Detroit Pistons, while hosting only one game against the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors.
Conflicts will be limited against the Miami Dolphins, with no home date conflicts. The only times the teams play the same day are Nov. 11, when the Heat play a 5 p.m. road game against the Memphis Grizzlies and the Dolphins host the Tennessee Titans at 1 p.m., and on Nov. 15, when both teams are on the road for night games, the Heat at the Denver Nuggets at 10:30 p.m. and the Dolphins at the Buffalo Bulls at 8:20 p.m.
There are, however, nine home-date conflicts with the Florida Panthers, including three in November and three more in February.
The Heat will play at home on Christmas Day (against the Thunder), at the Orlando Magic on New Year's Eve, and at San Antonio on Easter on March 31. It will be the ninth Christmas game for the Heat and the third at home, with their previous four Christmas games on the road, including last season's lockout-delayed season-opening victory in Dallas.
Of the Heat's 82 regular-season games, 31 will be nationally televised, with 10 games on ESPN, 10 on TNT, five on ABC and six on NBA TV, a total which could increase based on NBA TV's fan-night voting for Tuesday broadcasts. Sun Sports will air at least 70 games in the South Florida market, with that schedule to be released at a later date.
After playing 19 back-to-back sets last season, the same total as in 2010-11, the Heat are scheduled to play on consecutive nights only 16 times in 2012-13. There are no sets of back-to-back home games, after the lockout left the Heat playing six such sets last season.
By day of the week, the Heat play the most home games on Tuesdays and Wednesday, with eight game at AmericanAirlines Arena on each of those days. There are seven homes games on Fridays, six on Saturdays and six on Sundays.
Among the quirks of the schedule is that the Heat will conclude their season series against Brooklyn before facing the Philadelphia 76ers for the first time, and that they will conclude their season series against three Western Conference opponents before facing the Los Angeles Lakers for the first time.
The payback from the early run of home games is a stretch from Jan. 8-Feb. 3, when the Heat play 10 of 12 games on the road. March will be particularly punitive, with the 11 road games in the month tying the most for any month in the team's 25 seasons.
The Heat, however, do close out the season playing six of nine at home.
Because of their national-television appeal, the Heat will be featured in 10 day games, although just three will be at home.
The preseason schedule, which will include a two-game trip to China against the Clippers, and the first day of individual ticket sales will be announced at later dates. The Heat already have sold out their 2012-13 season-ticket inventory.
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