MIAMI — The Portland Trail Blazers, who visit the Miami Heat on Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, are on a season-high five-game losing streak.
But a case can be made that the Blazers (13-13) are not playing that poorly, especially in their past two losses, both by seven points against two Western Conference powers, the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors.
Portland point guard Damian Lillard scored a season-high 39 points on Monday against Golden State. It was his 10th game this season in which he has exceeded 30 points.
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In addition to Lillard’s heroics, Portland shot 92 percent from the foul line on Monday, making 23 of 25 shots. And Portland also turned the ball over just nine times — plus five in that category.
So there is a lot to build on as the Blazers challenge the Heat (13-13). Portland has been a solid road team this season (6-5), and Miami is just 5-6 at home.
In fact, Miami had to go south of the border to find its groove, traveling to Mexico City to defeat the Brooklyn Nets by 12 points on Saturday. The Heat then went to Memphis two nights later and routed the Grizzlies by 25 points, stretching Miami’s modest win streak to two games.
Miami is still without center Hassan Whiteside (left knee), who probably won’t return until January.
Whiteside will miss his seventh straight game on Wednesday, and his absence is making an impact on Miami’s style of play. In Monday’s win over Memphis, for example, the Heat had zero second-chance points and just two offensive rebounds.
Instead of crashing the boards, Miami won by shooting lights out — 56.1 percent from the floor and 14 of 27 on 3-pointers (51.9 percent).
In the second half, Miami outscored Memphis by 22 points, and that pleased Heat point guard Goran Dragic.
“We’ve had trouble in the third quarter in the past, but we’re figuring things out,” Dragic told the media. “As long as we can continue to do that, we will win a lot of games.”
Heat rookie center Bam Adebayo, who had 14 points, four rebounds and two blocks in 23 minutes off the bench against Memphis, has been stepping up since Whiteside went down.
“He really used his technique, energy, multiple efforts and mental stability to be in a lot of places that were pretty disruptive,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Adebayo.
Dragic leads Miami in scoring (17.3) and assists (4.4), but he will have a tough challenge in trying to contain Lillard, who is averaging 26.6 points and 6.2 assists.
Both men are considered among the NBA’s top 10 point guards, but Lillard is playing at an elite level. He is ninth in the league in scoring and is making 92.7 percent of his free throws.
Better yet for Portland fans, Lillard doesn’t plan on jumping off the Blazers team to start a super team elsewhere.
“This is an organization where I plan on being for the rest of my career,” Lillard told NBC Sports earlier this year. “It’s an honor (to play for the Blazers).”