Heat-Trail Blazers Preview
The Miami Heat entered the All-Star break in the midst of their longest winning streak of the season.
After what turned out to be an eventful weekend for their two best players, the Heat look to pick up right where they left off as they begin a three-game road swing Thursday night against the Portland Trail Blazers.
With LeBron James and Dwyane Wade leading the way, Miami (27-7) has outscored opponents by an average of 16.5 points during its eight-game run. The dynamic duo helped shut down Jeremy Lin and New York during a 102-88 victory last Thursday to carry plenty of momentum into the break.
James and Wade both excelled during the All-Star game, with James scoring an East-high 36 points and Wade becoming just the third player to post an All-Star game triple-double with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
Both, however, were heavily scrutinized during Sunday's affair. While James was criticized for committing a turnover in the final seconds and not trying to attempt the possible game-tying shot, Wade was bashed for a hard foul on the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant, breaking his nose and giving him a concussion in the process.
The Heat, however, don't seem too concerned about what transpired over the weekend and are looking forward to getting back to business.
"It's an All-Star game. I mean, come on," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "It's a continuation of the theater of the absurd. I don't even know if it's going to motivate me to actually even look at it. I haven't seen it.
"There's nothing we can do about it, about the extreme exaggeration about everything that happens with our team. All we can focus on is us. And at the end of the season, hopefully it ends the right way, and that'll ultimately be the only way we can shut people up."
Miami split last season's two-game series with the Trail Blazers (18-17), with each team winning in the other's arena. James had 44 points and Wade 34 in a 107-100 overtime victory at the Rose Garden on Jan. 9, 2011.
James is averaging 39.0 points, 11.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists over his last four trips to Portland, coming out on the winning side each time.
The Blazers kicked off the second half of their season in disappointing fashion, falling 104-95 at Denver on Wednesday. LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 points and nine boards while Jamal Crawford, making his second consecutive start at point guard over Raymond Felton, scored 21.
Portland, though, was outrebounded 54-36, surrendering a season-worst 21 boards on the offensive glass.
"We just got outworked. Right from the start, they outworked us, pounded us on the boards, pounded us in the paint," coach Nate McMillan said. "They wanted it more. Mentally, we've got to get stronger on the road, playing games like this."
Returning home could help the Blazers get back on track. Portland has outscored opponents by 12.7 points per contest in going 13-5 on its own court.
The Blazers have followed up each of their previous three losses with wins.