Game 64 Preview: Trail Blazers versus Heat

Game Time:  4:30 p.m.  TV:  CSNNW and NBATV

No doubt you've heard all about the Heat lately.  They've lost four straight to the Knicks(!), Magic, Spurs, and Bulls.  They've been crying in the locker room.  They've been arguing over precedence.  Got all of that?  Check.

So here's the conversation tonight.

D-Wade:  Hey man, want a Kleenex?

LeBron:  No, I'm good.

D-Wade:  So, Portland tonight.

LeBron:  Yeah.  (sniffles)  What should we do?

D-Wade:  We could weep some more.

LeBron:  Naw...enough of that.  Want to argue about last shots?

D-Wade:  No, we did that last night.

LeBron:  We're kind of stuck in a rut.

D-Wade:  I know.  We need something new to do.

LeBron:  Hmmm...

D-Wade:  What?

LeBron:  Wanna kill the Blazers?

D-Wade:  You mean like hire some hitmen to take them out?

LeBron:  No!  I mean basketball-wise.  You know... (LeBron punches his fist into his palm and makes a grinding motion.)

D-Wade:  Like, totally destroy them?

LeBron:  Exactly.  Total rout.  Laugh it up.  Get all Top 10 highlights on Sportscenter?

D-Wade:  That does sound like fun!

LeBron:  Totally.

D-Wade:  Let's do it!  We shall slay the Blazers with such slaying that there shall be nothing left after they are slain.

(LeBron snickers.)

D-Wade:  What?

LeBron:  Maybe they'll cry in the locker room after.

D-Wade:  Bet on it?

LeBron:  A benjamin per tear?

D-Wade:  You're on.

LeBron:  Hey, should we tell Bosh about this?

D-Wade:  Naw, let him finish his cucumber facial and pedicure first.

LeBron:  Ooooh!  Cucumber facial!  I hear that erases the tear lines!

D-Wade:  Exfoliates too!  I'm totally going for one of those after the slaying.

LeBron:  Lucky!  I have to go shoot a commercial for my Visine endorsement.  "Visine Dryness Relief:  More powerful than six losses to the Bulls!"

Aaannnnnnnnnddd scene.  And that's what's going to happen to the Portland Trail Blazers tonight.  I know people are screaming that the Blazers have a plethora of wing defenders to throw at LBJ and Wade.  That's like saying you have a bunch of big guys to hold the ocean back.  They may be better at holding the ocean back than any ocean-back-holders that ever existed.  The waves are still going to get through.  Miami is also ripe for the old "matchup comparison" fallacy.  "Our power forward edges your power forward, our center and point guards beat yours, and our bench is better so we win!"  Your vintage Trans Am may beat out some other guy's Volvo Station wagon but when the Lamborghini pulls up neither one matters.  Neither LeBron James nor Dwyane Wade have ever had an ounce of respect for the Blazers even when Portland was a better team than they are now.  You may stop them for a quarter but eventually they're going to crush you.  Both players are averaging over 25 ppg and pushing 50% from the field.  Chris Bosh is at 18 per game and 49%.  Those three account for 51 of Miami's 77 shots per game.  That's all that matters.

The Heat field a boatload of veterans around their Gigantic 3:  Erick Dampier, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Mike Miller, Mike Bibby, Eddie House, James Jones.  None of these guys are impressive anymore.  Several of them have been injured and/or have seriously underperformed.  But all of them know how to play and all of them have motivation to make this a "W".

While stacked with skilled and talented players, Portland has shown little ability to take a serious punch and sports maybe two players who, under duress, respond by punching back hard.  The Blazers have nice players but this isn't likely to be a nice game.

Losing streak or no, Miami flashes a +6.7 point differential, a 22-8 home record, the 5th best offensive efficiency in the league, the 4th best shooting efficiency in the league, the 3rd best shooting percentage in the league, the 3rd best free throw rate, and the 9th best three-point shooting percentage.  They're good defensively and on the boards as well.

One of two things is going to happen tonight.  Either the Blazers will play somewhat passively on defense and the Heat will torch them or the Blazers will play aggressively and physically and the referees will whistle approximately 1000 fouls on them.  On offense the Blazers will be sunk unless they go on a three-point tear the likes of which we've never seen.  Miami has bigger players than Orlando did last night and the Blazers never scored more than 24 in a quarter against the Magic.  Miami will pack it in, dare the Blazers to shoot, rebound the misses, and probably watch Wade and LeBron top 24 in a period between them against Portland's switch-help-don't rotate well, can only stop one player at a time defense.   I suppose "Crash" Wallace could bust a hole in them or Nicolas Batum and Andre Miller could score sneaky points against lazy defenders but it's hard for me to imagine Miami throwing another game under these circumstances.  Portland's catching the wrong team at the wrong time.  Even if the Blazers continue their trend of playing up (or down) to the level of the competition it's not likely to be enough.

See if they're worried at all over at Peninsula is Mightier.

Enter tonight's Jersey Contest form here.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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