The Eastern Conference-leading Miami Heat continue to roll with LeBron James playing at the highest of levels.
He wasn’t very efficient against the Portland Trail Blazers last month.
Looking to continue its home dominance of Western Conference foes, Miami tries to match its longest winning streak of the season Tuesday night against a Portland team that’s taken four straight in South Beach.
The Heat (34-14) have strung together five consecutive wins by an average of 11.6 points thanks in large part to James. The three-time NBA MVP became the third player in league history score at least 30 and shoot at least 60 percent in five straight contests Sunday, posting 32 points on 12-of-18 from the field in a 107-97 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Don’t take it for granted,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He’s making greatness look easy.”
Shooting a career-best 56.2 percent, James has shot an even more impressive 71.4 percent over the last five games for Miami, which is looking to win six straight for the third time this season.
“I go out and just play my game,” James said. “However the game is played, I try to take its course. Offensively, I’m just comfortable, confident in my ability. … I just try to make plays for us to win, that’s what ultimately it’s all about.”
The Heat have proven especially formidable at home, where they’ve compiled a 22-3 record while averaging 107.0 points. Miami has also had its way against the West, going 18-5, including 11-1 on its own court.
“We just try to go out and play our game each and every night, no matter if it’s an Eastern Conference team or a Western Conference team,” James said. “We understand we got another really good team coming into our building on Tuesday in Portland, and we’re looking forward to that one, too.”
The Heat enter Tuesday with revenge on their minds after blowing a 12-point lead with under eight minutes to go in a 92-90 loss at Portland on Jan. 10. James had 10 rebounds and nine assists but shot a season-worst 6-of-16 (37.5 percent) to finish with 15 points. That is the only time in his last 69 games, which includes the playoffs, he scored fewer than 20.
Portland (25-26) could have a hard time keeping up this time around if its recent efforts are any indication. Since opening a six-game road trip with last Monday’s 100-98 win over Minnesota, the Blazers have allowed an average of 111.0 points in losing three straight.
Portland’s woes continued Sunday in a 110-104 loss to Orlando, which had dropped 12 straight and 23 of 25. LaMarcus Aldridge had 25 points but rookie Damian Lillard was limited to a season-low four on 1-of-16 shooting.
Lillard, who did have a season-best 12 assists, had averaged 21.4 points over his previous five games for the Blazers, who were outrebounded by the Magic 50-38 and outscored 60-46 in the paint.
“A team like us can’t afford to get out played,” J.J. Hickson said. “We haven’t had that edge that we have had throughout the season.”
The Blazers, losers of seven of eight in opposing arenas, conclude their trek Wednesday at New Orleans.
“Miami will be a tough one and New Orleans plays well at home also. It is not like we can’t win the next two games and finish this trip at .500,” Lillard said. “There are things that we can fix. If things were going south, that means guys are not playing hard and we think that we are better than we are.”
In addition to trying to contain James, Portland could have a hard time slowing down Dwyane Wade, who’s averaging 27.0 points – 5.9 more than his season mark – over his last three games.
The Blazers have limited the Heat to an average of 94.5 points during their four-game road winning streak.