Team Records: Miami (23-10) at Portland (19-15)
Game Info: 7:30 p.m., TV on TNT, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.
Vegas Line: Miami -3.5
Refs: Tony Brothers, Nick Buchert, Gary Zielinski
The Skinny: Fresh off a thrilling OT win over Orlando Monday, Portland faces the defending NBA champs to begin a four game run against some of the league’s top teams. Miami comes into this game off a loss in Indiana, which dropped them to only 7-7 on the road. Overall Miami hasn’t been playing its best ball of late, with only a blowout win over Washington looking impressive in the past few weeks.
Last Season: Miami won the only game between the two teams, which took place in Portland. Miami has won three straight vs. the Blazers in Portland while the Blazers have won the last four in a row in Miami.
Projected Heat Lineup:
PF: Udonis Haslem (Florida-10th Season) – 3.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG, .5 APG
SF: LeBron James (St. Vincent-St. Mary’s (HS)-10th season) – 26.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 6.8 APG
C: Chris Bosh (Georgia Tech-10th Season) – 17.7 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.7 APG
SG: Dwayne Wade (Marquette-10th season) – 20.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 4.3 APG
PG: Mario Chalmers (Kansas-5th season) – 6.9 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 3.5 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. After finally winning his first NBA title last season the question for LeBron is no longer when he will win it all but how many times he will.
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: “Nazgul Theme” from Lord of the Rings-Miami often resembles these evil creatures from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, intent on destroying all in their path:
Portland: Out – C Meyers Leonard (Ankle), SG Elliot Williams (Achilles)
Miami might not have been playing up to the same level they were during the playoffs yet but if this is their “b effort”, its pretty damn good. 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, they are at least equally effective if they are focused (which they haven’t always been in some of their losses this year). They can lock you down with the best of them and force turnovers in bunches. 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 play their game. Look as good as Portland has been playing as of late, there comes a time when, if a team that is more talented plays like it, they will win. Miami is more talented and if they play their game, they should walk out with a win.