Is the Heat’s five-game losing streak destruction or redemption?Spoelstra says it’s time to get ‘rough’

MIAMI — The question now is whether the Miami Heat will continue on the road to redemption or return to destruction.

Answers will be provided in Friday night’s five-game series against the Denver Nuggets and onwards against the Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns.

For the Heat, that extended excursion has largely contributed to the team’s modest 18-17 record in the West.

1-2 trips at the start of the season. Then came the 0-4 trip. Then 2-2 trips.

But the last time the Heat went out, they went 4-0 against the Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs.

Still, that trip meant a four-game road win streak against the Nuggets on Friday night.

“Our guys are smart. They understand what this road trip is about,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’re playing against quality teams. We’ve got to play well on both ends. We’ve got to be very connected. And then you’ve got to go through something.

“When you’re on the road, it’s always a little bit rough. That’s the part I like. I want to see how we respond and see if that leads to a higher level.”

This is clearly a challenge.

“We’ve never been afraid of the road,” said guard Max Struth, even with the Heat’s poor road record this season, which is 7-9 on the road.

There’s also some perspective on any concerns about leaving South Florida for eight days.

“I mean, I think overall, we’ve had an up-and-down season,” guard Gabe Vincent said. “And I think we’ve been finding our overall footing, both on the road and at home.

“So it’s encouraging and exciting as we continue to get everyone back in the locker room and keep everyone healthy.”

Also keep an eye on the work to be done to avoid losing seven of their next 10 home games.

“As long as we have everybody, we feel like we’re good,” guard Tyler Herro said, now concerned about the personal issue of Kyle Lowry leaving the team against the Lakers on Wednesday night.

“Whatever we had on the last road trip, just keep bringing it — as long as there’s a lot of energy, playing for each other, playing on the defensive end, the offense will sort itself out.”

It’s a trip with several unique yet familiar aspects.

At the Nuggets on Friday: With Nuggets leading the West and Nikola Jokic playing at an MVP level again, see if Erik Spoelstra rests players instead of prioritizing Saturday night’s high-altitude back-to-back games It will be interesting to consider the backend. Utah.

The Heat haven’t won in Denver since Nov. 30, 2016.

This game also brought the Heat back to the ugly melee scene between Heat forward Markieff Morris and Jokic last season. Manager Andy Ellisberger was there.

It could also showcase the NBA’s first Nikola Jokic vs. Nikola Jovic matchup.

Saturday at Jazz: It’s a reunion game where Heat icon Dwyane Wade is part owner of the Jazz, former Heat assistant David Fizdale is now Utah’s deputy general manager, and former Heat big man Kelly Olynyk The Jazz are going through a revival, and Jazz rookie center Walker Kessler is the nephew of the late former Heat center Alec Kessler.

The Heat swept last season’s two-game series and have beaten the Jazz at least once a year since the 2011-12 lockout shortened.

Monday at the Clippers: The Heat won Game 1 of a two-game series, 115-110, on Dec. 8 in Miami without Jimmy Butler and Lowry and the Clippers without Kawhilen Nader and Norman Powell.

The Clippers’ defense is led by former Heat assistant Tyronn Lue assistant coach Dan Craig.

The Heat have lost their last three road games against the Clippers.

Wednesday at the Lakers: It was a replay of the Heat’s 112-98 win in Miami on Wednesday night.

Unlike Wednesday’s game, it won’t be part of the Lakers’ back-to-back games when they travel to the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night, meaning there’s less doubt about whether LeBron James will play. The Lakers will continue to be without forward Anthony Davis, though, as he deals with his foot issues.

Since March 16, 2018, the Heat have lost their last four road games to the Lakers, with no road wins in the series.

One thing about LeBron is that he’s going to school every turn Spoelstra throws at him on Wednesday.

At the Suns on Jan. 6: On Nov. 14, the Heat won Game 1 of a two-game series 113-112 in Miami, when Bam Adebayo had 30 points and 10 rebounds in a game the Heat didn’t have. Lo, the Suns don’t have Chris Paul.

This time around, the Suns will be without Devin Booker, who has been sidelined for a month with a groin injury.

This could be the moment Suns president and former Heat forward James Jones makes clear his intentions with former Heat forward Jae Crowder, who has left the Suns and hinted at an interest in reuniting with the Heat.