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Portland Trail Blazers at Miami Heat Preview

Portland needs a win badly after losing five in a row.

NBA: Miami Heat at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (13-13) at Miami Heat (13-13)

Wednesday, December 13th - 4:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Jusuf Nurkic (questionable ), Moe Harkless (questionable)
Heat injuries: Hassan Whiteside (out), Okaro White (out), Rodney McGruder (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Hot Hot Hoops

The Blazers are looking to snap a five-game losing streak. It’s certainly not a catastrophe to lose to the Golden State Warriors on the road as they did in their last outing, even with the Warriors missing Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. Still, a five-game skid is rough and the Blazers really need a win in Miami.

Miami is having an indifferent campaign in terms of wins and losses, but they’ve won their last two games after a difficult schedule to begin the season. Most recently, the Heat beat the Memphis Grizzlies 107-82 at home. They’re in 9th place in the East, but are very much in touch with the bottom half of the playoff spots in their conference.

What to watch for

  • Who will win the 3-point battle? Miami takes the 4th most 3-pointers in the league at 32.2 a game, over 7 more than the Blazers. The good news is that Portland holds opponents to 35 percent from the arc, 5th best in the NBA. The Blazers are shooting 37.4 percent from deep for the season, but put up a paltry 25 percent last time out. If the Blazers can’t keep up with the Heat from outside, they may find themselves once again chasing the game.
  • Can the Blazers take advantage of the Whiteside injury? Miami isn’t the same without Hassan Whiteside. The problem: it’s far from a sure thing that the Blazers’ bigs can take advantage, at least in terms of scoring. We don’t know yet if Jusuf Nurkic will play, and if he does, whether he is up for big minutes. Meyers Leonard started against Golden State, but it was rookie Zach Collins who earned the most minutes at center. While Collins had the best game of his young career, neither he nor any of the Blazer bigs got into double figures. Opportunities should be there for a Portland center to score. Will one of them take it?
  • Portland needs to own the boards. The Blazers have the 3rd best rebound percentage in the NBA this year, but they haven’t been good in recent games. In the month of December, Portland is all the way down to 26th in the league in rebound percentage. A poor rebounding performance against the Whiteside-less Heat will almost certainly spell doom for the boys from Rip City. On the other hand, if the Blazers can pull down 5–10 more boards than the Heat, they should find themselves in very good shape to break the five-game losing streak.

What they’re saying

Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald talks about rookie Bam Adebayo taking advantage of Whiteside’s injury:

In the 15 games Whiteside has played, Adebayo, 20, has only made eight appearances, averaged just over eight minutes in those games. In the 11 games Whiteside has missed, meanwhile, the rookie has looked better than a serviceable fill-in — especially of late.

In Monday’s win, Adebayo had 14 points (including one thunderous dunk on an alley-oop feed from Goran Dragic), four rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks. He also came off the bench when starting center Kelly Olynyk got into foul trouble (twice) and helped hold Grizzlies All-Star center Marc Gasol to 19 points on 5 of 14 shooting, six rebounds and four turnovers.

Tyler Johnson had a slow start to the year, but as Simon Smith on All U Can Heat explains, Johnson has most definitely broken out of the slump:

Through his first 19 games, Johnson had posted just 9.2 points and 3.0 rebounds, which featured shooting at a 33.9 percent clip from the field and 30.9 percent from 3-point range.

But to the credit of Johnson, the manner in which he has responded over the past couple of weeks is a real testament to both his talent and mental aptitude.

Over the past six games, Johnson has turned things around drastically, averaging 16.2 points and 2.8 rebounds in 28.2 minutes per game. Most notably, Johnson has converted at a 59.0 percent clip from the field and a 50.0 percent clip from 3-point range while leading the Heat in scoring during this period.

Jesuit and University of Portland star Eric Spoelstra is on the verge of tying a record held by his boss. Matt Pineda of Hot Hot Hoops has the details:

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra is one win away from tying Heat President Pat Riley for the most regular season wins in franchise history. So it is only a matter of time before Spoelstra ties Riley and then surpasses him.

It took Riley 11 seasons with the Heat to reach the 454 wins he has with the team. Spoelstra is at 453 and in his 10th season after taking over for Riley in 2008.

Spoelstra already owns the Heat record for playoff wins with 70. And behind Greg Popovich, he is the longest tenured coach in the NBA.