Team Records: Miami (22-7) at Portland (24-5)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on KGW, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Portland -4.5
Refs: Rodney Mott, Brian Forte, Derek Richardson
The Skinny: In what is likely the biggest regular season game to be played in Portland in the past several years, the Blazers face the two-time defending champion Miami Heat Saturday night in what promises to be a heavyweight showdown. The Blazers have met every challenge, exceeded every expectation but now there is one final, and biggest, challenge of them all. As they say, if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best and Miami is certainly the best, as those two straight titles have proven. Miami comes into this game off a surprising OT loss in Sacramento that snapped a six-game winning streak.
Last Season: The two teams split the season series, with both winning at home. The Blazers hold a 33-16 lead all-time against the Heat.
Projected Heat Lineup:
PF: Shane Battier (Duke-13th Season) – 4.1 PPG, 1.8 RPG, .6 APG
SF: LeBron James (St. Vincent-St. Mary’s (HS)-11th season) – 25.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 6.5 APG
C: Chris Bosh (Georgia Tech-11th Season) – 15.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, .9 APG
SG: Dwayne Wade (Marquette-11th season) – 20.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 5 APG
PG: Mario Chalmers (Kansas-6th season) – 9.1 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 4.8 APG
Player to Watch: LeBron James (pictured at right) – Love him or hate him, there is no question that LeBron James is a special talent. On offense, he is deadly from virtually anywhere on the court. He can get to the rim, pull up and take the midrange jumper and even drain the occasional three pointer. On defense, LeBron is equally, if not more, effective, capable of defending any position on the court and rarely beaten on defense. LeBron is the best player in the game today, without any doubt.
Did You Know?: Miami head coach Erik Spolestra is a Portland native, a member of the Jesuit HS Hall of Fame and was West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year in 1989 while attending and playing for the University of Portland.
Song of the Day: “Be Prepared” from the Lion King-This song seems perfect for tonight, as it describes Scar’s attempts to dethrone the current king (and features the famous line “NO KING, NO KING LA LA LA LA LA LA!”). A perfect anthem as the Blazers look to dethrone King James and his two-time defending champion Heat:
Portland: Out – PG CJ McColllum (Foot)
Miami: Out-C Greg Oden (Knee), Questionable-C Chris Andersen (Back), SF LeBron James (Groin).
Miami at their best is quite rightly described by CBS Sports’s Matt Moore (better known as @hpbasketball on Twitter) as a “Flying Death Machine”). When Miami gets going on offense, they are nearly unstoppable. They can score from anywhere on the court and the focus on defending their big three usually leaves open shots for their outside shooters. Miami can tend to struggle against zone defenses since none of their three primary scorers has a great outside shot but few teams have played a consistent zone versus Miami through a full game. On defense, Miami isn’t the greatest at defending shots but they do an excellent job forcing turnovers and getting easy buckets. If you play sloppy against Miami, you can find yourselves on the wrong-side of a big run very quickly. If Miami has a weakness, it is probably rebounding, especially offensive rebounding, where they are among the worst in the league. Still, even with that, beating them requires focus, effort, talent and frankly more than a little bit of luck, and that may still not enough.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They limit Miami’s scoring outside Bosh, Wade and James. Miami’s big three is good enough to win on their own but they are damn near impossible to stop if they get help from the rest of their team on offense. Portland will have to hope to keep the rest of Miami’s team off the score sheet and take their chances with making the big three beat them on their own.
Miami wins if: They make Portland play sloppy. If the Blazers play as sloppy as they did much of Thursday’s win against the Clippers, Miami will be sure they are punished for it and will probably win fairly easily.