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Trail Blazers Face Streaking Heat, James In Miami

  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0


    The Trail Blazers (25-26) face the Miami Heat (34-14) on Tuesday night in Miami. It is the fifth game in the Trail Blazers' six game road trip and it was looked at before the trip, as it is now, as the toughest game on the trip. The game will tip off at 4:30 PM and will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

        •    The previous match-up between these two teams was as dramatic as any of the many drama-filled games for the Trail Blazers this year. A late run by the Trail Blazers in the fourth quarter which included two Wesley Matthews three-pointers in the final minute helped the Trail Blazers defeat the defending champions. Nicolas Batum's 10 points in the fourth quarter were also a major factor in the comeback. In that game, the Trail Blazers were intent on not letting the dynamic duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade get whatever they wanted. Both players will almost always reach their statistical norms on a nightly basis but the only thing the Trail Blazers could do, and succeeded in doing, was make things tough on James and Wade. LeBron James went six for 16 and was one assist short of a triple-double and Wade went six for 18 for 18 points. Chris Bosh was able to punish the Trail Blazers for focusing so much on Wade and James as he scored 29 points on 18 shots, but the late Portland run was able to salvage the game. Portland didn't shoot well for the most part, LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard went a combined 10 for 30 and Miami's high pressure defense caused problems that the Trail Blazers were able to adjust to. Tuesday night should be more of the same from the Heat and the Trail Blazers will have to adjust.
     •    Obviously, the Trail Blazers were due for some self-assessment after their loss in Orlando. More than anywhere, the Trail Blazers players and Terry Stotts emphasized the need to play better on the defensive end, where they were a step slow in Orlando. The Trail Blazers did a good job making life difficult for James and Wade but both are coming off efficient 30-point performances against the Lakers on Sunday. James in particular is on a tear of historic proportions from an efficiency standpoint. He's hit 49 of his last 65 field goal attempts which means he is shooting 75 percent. James is doing most of his damage in the paint and Portland must do a better job than they did against Orlando defending the painted area. The Heat have won their last five games and James has scored 30 points in all of those games. Additionally, James his shooting 60 percent on three-pointers in the past five games.
      •    The Trail Blazers should not expect an off night from Miami's leading men for the second time in a row, meaning that engine's that drive Portland on a nightly basis have to be revved up. As stated above, Aldridge and Lillard both suffered subpar offensive nights as did Wade and James which made it a match-up between basically the Matthews/Batum combo against Chris Bosh's scoring. With Batum's wrist starting look better as of late, averaging 21.5 points over his last two games, it is a necessity that Aldridge and Lillard help carry the load. Aldridge has been stellar every game of the road trip and Lillard will certainly be looking to make amends for his 1-for-16 shooting night. Miami's defense limited Lillard to only 11 field goal in the previous game.With Batum's ability to initiate the offense as a point forward coming along since their match-up in early January, and put Lillard off the ball, perhaps Portland will be able to get more looks using their dynamic rookie away from the ball.
    •    Will Stotts opt for the veterans or the young guys off the bench against the Heat? The last game between these two teams would indicate veterans. Sasha Pavlovic, Ronnie Price and Jared Jeffries led the bench in minutes in previous game, but it will be interesting to see how Stotts will approach the substitutions again. Against such a high-powered offensive team, this game could call for the defensive services of Jeffries. However, Victor Claver has played in every game in the month of February and he recorded a DNP against the Heat in Portland. Will Barton and Nolan Smith who have also been in the rotation more as of late will be getting their first tries against the Heat as both players also received DNPs. It looks likely that Coach Stotts' youngsters will get their first action agains the defending champs but with Price and Pavlovic getting healthy, it would be a surprise to nobody if he opted for more experience against such a quality opponent.

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