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Miami Heat at Portland Trail Blazers Game Preview

The Trail Blazers return to action tonight against the visiting Miami Heat.

NBA: Miami Heat at Portland Trail Blazers Cole Elsasser-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Heat (7-12) at Portland Trail Blazers (10-10)

Dec. 3, 2016, 7:00 PST
Watch: CSN NW; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Festus Ezeli (out), Al-Farouq Aminu (out)
Heat injuries: Derrick Williams (DTD), Luke Babbitt (DTD), Josh Richardson (out), Dion Waiters (out), Justise Winslow (out)
SBN Affiliate: Hot Hot Hoops

The Trail Blazers will finish out their three-game home stand tonight against the injury-depleted Heat. Miami has been victorious against two other Northwest Division opponents this week, and will be looking to make it three before returning home to Florida. Portland will enter its second game in a row with adequate rest, which should be a considerable advantage in tonight’s contest.

In the best-case scenario, the Heat will likely only have nine active players. Injuries have taken a huge toll on Miami to start the season, which has led to some obscure cameos inside their starting five.

Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside will anchor coach Eric Spoelstra’s attack, but they will be joined by some faces that will have everyone inside the Moda Center reaching for their programs. Former Trail Blazers forward Josh McRoberts will continue his run with the starting rotation, and he will be joined by former D-League guard Rodney McGruder. After Luke Babbitt’s early exit from Thursday’s game in Salt Lake City, it is unclear who Spoelstra will start in his place.

Preventing Whiteside from dominating the boards will be a challenge for a resurgent Trail Blazers post rotation. Portland was able to win the rebounding battle against the Pacers on Wednesday, but they will face a much tougher task tonight. Whiteside is currently on top of the NBA leaderboard in rebounds per game, and he is more than capable of single-handedly dominating the paint. Mason Plumlee and Ed Davis have taken the Blazers from a horrible rebounding team to a bad rebounding team, but that progress will face a major test against the Heat.

Even with an improved effort on defense against Indiana, Portland is still committing way too many fouls on that end of the court. The Heat are shooting below 70 percent from the free throw line as a team, so a tightly-called game won’t necessarily doom the Trail Blazers. Forcing Whiteside to earn his points from the charity stripe is one way to minimize his impact on the box score.

Defense wasn’t the only thing that rose from the ashes this week, as Evan Turner and Allen Crabbe combined for 28 points off the bench against the Pacers. Keeping an under-manned Miami team on its heels might be the most effective path to victory for Portland. The Heat have proven they won’t concede victory easily, so maintaining leads will be crucial for the Trail Blazers’ reserves.

Portland has relied on unreal point totals to achieve victory, and that shoot-out mentality puts Miami at a major disadvantage. Miami’s offense relies on isolation and doesn’t feature a lot of 3-point shooting. That combination makes overcoming large deficits a huge obstacle.

If Portland can build on Wednesday’s victory, they’ll be able to get above .500 to start the month of December. Establishing an early lead against a vulnerable Heat team will likely translate into a positive finish for the Trail Blazers’ week at home.

Blazer’s Edge Night 2017

Want to assist us in sending 2,000+ underprivileged Portland-area kids to a Trail Blazers game this spring? Check out Blazer’s Edge Night 2017 for information on how to get involved, and help spread the word!