MIAMI (AP) — The Miami Heat are going to the Super Bowl. Well, at least Super Bowl weekend.
Among the favorite moments for Heat players on their way to a second straight NBA championship last season was staying in Toronto for a few unplanned hours after a game against the Raptors so the team could throw itself a Super Bowl watch party. The Heat won that day to start what became a 27-game winning streak, the second-longest in NBA history.
And this year, the Heat will get a better look at Super Bowl hoopla.
The league is sending Miami to Madison Square Garden on Feb. 1 — one night before the NFL championship game at the nearby stadium that the New York Giants and Jets call home — for a game that is certain to be a star-studded affair, and carries a rare 8:30 p.m. local time start.
It’s one of the clear highlights on this coming season’s schedule, released by the league Tuesday night.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the rest of last season’s championship club will get their latest rings on Oct. 29, shortly before the Heat start the year against the Bulls. That game also figures to be Derrick Rose’s return from an April 2012 knee injury that kept him sidelined for the entirety of last season — including Miami’s five-game victory over Chicago in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“You care a little bit about what the schedule says, like where you’ll be for the holidays and making sure that your family is there around you,” Heat guard Mario Chalmers said. “Going to LA on Christmas this time, that’s a little weird … but you just show up and play.”
It’s the first time since 2008 that the league’s reigning champion will be sent on the road for Christmas. Miami will play on Dec. 25 at the Los Angeles Lakers, who are waiting to see how quickly Bryant can return from the Achilles’ tear he endured in April.
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Other key matchups and notes from the Heat schedule:
— The NBA Finals rematches with San Antonio, at home on Jan. 26 and at the Spurs on March 6.
— Miami gets its first look at the Brooklyn Nets, who added Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry among others to their roster this summer, in game No. 3 of the Heat season. The Heat are at the Nets on Nov. 1, which is Brooklyn’s home opener.
— Mike Miller’s return to Miami will be March 21. The former Heat guard was designated this summer as the team’s amnesty player, and signed a deal to return to the Grizzlies not long after clearing waivers. It’s still unknown if Miller will have to wait until March 21 to get his championship ring, or if he could be presented with it earlier. (The Grizzlies are off on the night Miami will hand out the rings to open the year.)
— Miami and Eastern Conference finalist Indiana will play four times, starting with a game in Indianapolis on Dec. 10. The teams will play twice in the final three weeks of the season.
— James’ two trips back to his former Cleveland home are Nov. 27 and March 18.
— Greg Oden’s return to Portland would be Dec. 28.
— Miami has a pair of six-game road trips, and a pair of five-game homestands. The Heat play nine of their first 14 games at home, then seven of their final 10 games at home as well.
— The schedule includes 17 sets of back-to-back games, five in March — a month where the Heat play 18 games in 31 days.
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