Game Time: 6:00 p.m. TV: CSNNW
The Miami Heat storm into Portland having won 19 of their last 20 games. That is not a misprint. Though their schedule has not been stocked with contenders a 95% winning clip is nothing to sneeze at. They've won home and away, against good, bad, and mediocre alike. They've made good teams look bad and contenders look like also-rans. Only 6 of those 19 victories have been within 10 points. It's bad.
For all the trumpeting of offensive stars the Heat are spinning gold with their defense. They're first in the league in field goal percentage allowed, three-point percentage allowed, and effective field goal percentage allowed. They're third defensive efficiency. They don't allow fast breaks. They don't allow scoring in the paint. The only way you're going to beat them is by hitting jumpers and plenty of them. Guess how often that works? They're also good defensive rebounders, so when you miss those jumpers the ball goes bye-bye, right into the hands of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.
Next to their defense, though, Miami's offense looks almost pedestrian. They're only third in the league in shooting percentage, seventh in three-point percentage and effective field goal percentage, and second in free-throw rate and overall offensive efficiency. Slackers. All of their Big Three players shoot incredible percentages from the field. James and Wade draw plenty of foul shots. And the front office has surrounded them with players who can hit the threes that they can't. It's pretty airtight. You're not going to shut these guys down. You just have to hope to outscore them. (See also: preceding paragraph on defense.)
Normally at this time I'd plot out a loose strategy for Portland winning, some kind of key to the game. Miami tends to play closer against lesser teams. That's about the only hope: catch them sleeping and pray that nearly every shot goes in. Try to run a little when you can...basically throw caution to the wind and play all out like it doesn't matter. Maybe the winds will blow your way.
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