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Heat facing life on the road

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Having come back from a seven-point deficit in the final two minutes of regulation to defeat the Atlanta Hawks in overtime to complete a 5-0 homestand, the Miami Heat now face their most demanding stretch of the regular season.

Starting with a Christmas Day visit to Los Angeles to take on the Lakers in a nationally televised affair (ABC, 5 p.m. ET), the Heat will play their next four games on the road over a six-day span, completing a western swing with games at Sacramento, Portland, and Denver.

With a circus taking over their AmericanAirlines Arena home for two weeks in January, the Heat will play 11 of their next 14 games and 18 of their next 26 on the road.

Among that span are six-game road stretch against Eastern Conference rivals New York, Brooklyn, Washington, Philadelphia, Charlotte, and Atlanta and a six-game journey west to face the Los Angeles Clippers, Utah, Phoenix, Golden State, Dallas, and Oklahoma City.

Meanwhile, the team they are chasing for best record in the conference, the Indiana Pacers, will play 15 of their next 26 games at home.

Of the Pacers’ 11 road outings, five will be played in late January when they make a journey west to take on Golden State, Phoenix, Sacramento, Denver, and the L.A. Lakers over an 11-day span.

Something to watch for during the extended traveling will be how much guard Dwyane Wade will play.

Wade sat out the 121-119 win over the Hawks Monday night to rest his tender knees. It’s the seventh game he has missed this season, though one of his absences was due to an illness.

After playing in nine of the first 10 games (missing one with the flu), Wade has yet to play more than five consecutive games in any one stretch, and one of those two spans featured a four-day gap between games.

Five times over the upcoming stretch the Heat are facing back-to-back games, the first coming up Friday and Saturday (Dec. 27-28) when they are at Sacramento and Portland.

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