Game 36 Preview: Miami Heat vs. Portland Trail Blazers

Game Time: 7:30 p.m. TV: TNT

When I was a kid we used to joke about the dreaded SBD, a Silent But Deadly nasal encroachment caused by stealthy emission of gas by an unknown offender. The Miami Heat are nothing like that. They're a loud burst of flatulence wafting across the elevator of the NBA, incapacitating or clearing out everyone in their path without so much as an "Excuse me". When they come to your town, you'll know it. And unless you're a real sicko, it won't be a pleasant experience.

Consider this: the Heat road record of 12-5 is better than the home record of 22 teams in this league, including the Trail Blazers. Do you remember every team Portland has lost to? Heat fans can remember their defeats. Hawks, Warriors, Clippers, Nuggets, Bucks twice, and Magic. That's all. 27-7. They win almost 80% of their games.

The Heat are the highest scoring team in the league. They have the #1 offensive efficiency ranking. They're 4th in fast break points, 7th in points in the paint, 4th in free throws attempted, 1st in shooting and effective field goal percentages, 1st in three-point percentage. Remember when the Phoenix Suns used to dominate every offensive category in the league? This is as close as you're going to get, except the Heat do it with fewer possessions and a lot more defense.

That's right, they defend too. They have the 7th best defensive efficiency in the league, allow the 4th fewest points in the paint, 7th fewest fast break points, and 5th lowest overall shooting percentage. Like Denver last night they'll take away all of your easy shots and be happy as clams with you shooting from deep. They're tied with the Nuggets, allowing the most three-point attempts in the league. They're 25th in the league in opponent three-point percentage. That's not a weakness, that's a plan. They're a good defensive rebounding team. They'll happily watch you miss from the outside and traipse down the court to score on you. On top of that they force turnovers, which doesn't seem fair.

We barely have to rehearse the big names on their roster:

  • LeBron James: 27 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 1.8 steals, 55% shooting, 41% from distance, 9 free throws shot per game.
  • Dwyane Wade: 22 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.4 blocks (!), 50% shooting, 6.5 free throws shot per game.
  • Chris Bosh: 18 points, 8 rebounds, 49% shooting.

Then you have the other guys. Point guard Mario Chalmers shoots 51% from the field, 46% from the arc. Wing Mike Miller averages 51% from the floor, 52% from the arc. Power forward Udonis Haslem averages 8 rebounds in 26 minutes. Everybody on this roster below the Big Three does one or two things well. Everybody on this roster plays on a team where that's all that's required. They are in tune, clicking, working on an 8-game winning streak and 15 wins in their last 17 games.

Normally you can find a crack or two for the Blazers to slip through, giving them potential to win the game. Where's the angle here? Three-point shooting is their only apparent weakness and that's probably a road straight to disaster for the Blazers. The Heat play big, relying on athleticism more than pure speed, but that's the Blazers too. They don't turn the ball over. You can't rebound on them. You can't shut them down by keying on a star and watching the rest of the team wilt. You better have an Oceans 11, Italian Job kind of plan in place to beat this team.

The only way I see Portland winning is with overwhelming effort, perhaps catching the Heat in a lull after the long break. If the Blazers play with a lot of heart, a little bit of their home voodoo, follow their trend of playing up to their level of competition as well as down, manage some great individual defense, refuse to be bullied, and hit some shots...maybe. Then again, what are the odds of that when Portland played in Denver last night while the Heat remain fresh? Perhaps LeBron and company will get the Blazers riled early. Playing with a chip on their shoulder would help. But the reality is, when you have to say these things you're in a deep hole already. We'll see if Portland can bump and fire their way out of it. That's not likely. The elevator's only so big. Sometimes there's nowhere to run.

Read about the Heat at PeninsulaIsMightier.

Enter the first Jersey Contest form of March here.

--Dave (blazersub@gmail.com)

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