Portland Trail Blazers (40-26) vs. Miami Heat (36-31)
Monday, March 12th - 7:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: None
Heat injuries: Dwyane Wade (out), Hassan Whiteside (out), Dion Waiters (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, ESPN
How to stream: WatchESPN, YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV
Radio: 620 AM, ESPN Radio
SBN Affiliate: Hot Hot Hoops
The basketball gods have apparently given the Blazers another golden opportunity to keep their winning streak alive. Dwyane Wade has already said that he won’t play against Portland, and talk from Miami’s camp makes it seem highly unlikely that Hassan Whiteside will play either. (Note - Ira Winderman confirmed Monday morning that neither will play.) That’s certainly not a guarantee of a Blazer victory, but once again some key players for a Blazer opponent are likely to be watching the game in street clothes. That can’t be a bad thing.
The Blazers are riding one of their best runs of form in years, winning nine in a row. They are also an astounding 15-1 at home over their last 16. Miami meanwhile has won four out of their last five, most recently taking down the Washington Wizards 129-102 on Saturday in Miami. However, all four of their recent wins came at home. The Heat are also riding a seven-game losing streak on the road.
What to watch for
- Portland rebounding well. The Blazers have the most rebounds per game in the NBA since Feb. 14, the date their winning streak started. Miami would struggle to keep up with the Blazers at the best of times, but it will be especially difficult if Whiteside is indeed unavailable. Whiteside pulls down 11.8 boards a game; Bam Adebayo is playing above expectations, but he’ll have to have an amazing effort on the glass to make up for Whiteside’s absence.
- Balanced scoring from the Heat. In their most recent game, Miami had eight players in double figures, with no player scoring more than 20. This scoring pattern isn’t at all unusual for the Heat. No player has scored more than 33 points this season for Miami, and their highest scorer is usually closer to 20 points than 30. Expect Miami to find points from all over the lineup, both starters and the bench. Fundamentally strong defense will be the key for the Blazers, making sure that all of the Heat players are forced to take difficult shots.
- The Blazers need to be strong in all areas. Miami doesn’t really stand out in any one statistical category. They are an average shooting team, an average rebounding team, average in steals and average in turnovers. The do everything competently, and they really don’t have any major statistical weaknesses either. With the Blazers playing well and Miami traveling across the country for the first game of a West Coast road trip, things would seem to point in the Blazers’ favor. Yet, if Portland slips up in any areas, Miami has the ability to make them pay. Nevertheless, if the Blazers play their game across the board they should be looking at consecutive win number 10.
What they’re saying
How good can Bam Adebayo become? The Heat aren’t putting a ceiling on him according to Yaron Weitzman of Bleacher Report:
“Everybody at Kentucky told us he was their most competitive player,” Spoelstra says nearly eight months later over the phone. “That’s speaking our language here in Miami, and that’s exactly what we saw that day.”
The Heat grabbed Adebayo with their first-round pick, with a focus on grooming him for the future.
”We anticipated this was going to be a developmental year,” Spoelstra concedes. But then came post-draft workouts and NBA Summer League, training camp and the preseason, and before long the entire Heat organization was smitten with their new gem.
Zach Lowe of ESPN says that Josh Richardson is Miami’s best all-around player. And he has a special skill:
Richardson is among the very best at trailing ball-handlers around screens, lurking behind them, and swatting at the ball: (video)
Coaches call that a rearview challenge. In his Indiana prime, George Hill was perhaps the preeminent rearview challenger among point guards. Richardson is longer, springier and meaner. He’s like a horror movie villain: Even if you can’t see him, you hear his footsteps and feel his presence.
Great plays don’t just happen on the hardwood. Dwyane Wade made the assist of the year when he visited Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on the students’ first full day back at school since the horrible mass shooting. Andre C. Fernandez from the Miami Herald reports with plenty of pictures and video
“You might think I’m lying, but I’m being truthful. I didn’t expect that kind of reaction,” Wade said. “I knew it was a tough day for them going back to their first full day. I definitely wanted to bring an element of surprise, an element of joy. The reaction was unbelievable. It was great to see, it was great to feel, it was great to feel that energy, the vibe that carried them throughout the whole day and carried me for the rest of the day as well. It was just a good day for them and for me as well to have just a moment of face time with them, a few little words, encouragement. I talked to different groups while I was there in different settings. It was cool. I’m glad that I did it.”