Temperatures will be rising at the Moda Center when the Miami Heat arrive on Sunday for a head-to-head showdown with the Portland Trail Blazers. After getting mauled in consecutive losses to the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers, the Trail Blazers took advantage of a home meeting against the lowly Detroit Pistons on Saturday. They’ll try to go back-to-back with a Heat team coming off a 110-104 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.
Heat still look sluggishThe Lakers made Thursday’s game against the Heat a bit too close for comfort.
Miami had everything going for them heading into that game. Not only were they playing on their home floor, but they were also facing a Lakers team without LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Kyle Kuzma. And they still only won by six points.
The Heat might make the playoffs, but they haven’t shown enough to prove they’re a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference. Of course, they could easily take those words as motivation and turn it on at the right time like they did last season. But then again, last season didn’t have the current versions of the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers around.
They’ll try to offer a better showing in Sunday’s meeting with the Trail Blazers. Unlike the shorthanded Lakers, the Trail Blazers couldn’t play dead in a western defensively. They are currently the second-worst team in defensive efficiency with teams averaging 115.1 points per game against them this season. Jimmy Butler and company have to put an end to the sluggish play and get something going offensively.
It would help if they stop turning the ball over. They looked as bad as a Lakers team full of reserve players after turning the ball over 21 times in their previous outing.
This isn’t going to be a game that can be solely won on defense alone. The Trail Blazers have the fifth-ranked scoring offense in the league with one of the deadliest backcourts. Miami is clearly one of the elite defensive teams in basketball, but they’ll have a tough time dealing with the one-two punch of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
Victor Oladipo has already been ruled out for the Heat in this game, while Tyler Herro remains questionable with a foot injury.
Can Portland win with no defense?The Trail Blazers were able to take advantage of a bad team like the Pistons on Saturday, but they’ve clearly struggled when facing some of the better offensive teams in the league. Heading into their meeting with Detroit, they were already coming off a pair of bad losses to the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers. Those performances were concerning considering how badly the Trail Blazers were exposed for being such a one-dimensional team.
Their inability to get stops on the defensive end of the court severely limits their playoff ceiling. Damian Lillard is as big time as it gets on the floor, but “Dame Time” can’t be every time.
For the Trail Blazers’ sake, they’re hopeful it’ll be that time in Sunday’s meeting with a Heat defense that ranks sixth in efficiency. They’re only allowing an average 107.4 points per game this season. It’s going to be a long night for Portland if they can’t break that mold.
Even a struggling offensive team like Miami will have opportunities to pile up buckets against the Trail Blazers defense. They basically hand them out for free in hopes of Lillard being a magician on the offensive end of the floor. It worked in the previous meeting between the two teams with McCollum stepping into the spotlight and twirling his wand for 35 points. We’ll see if history repeats itself and the Trail Blazers hand the heat a second loss on the season.
The team might still be without forward Zach Collins, who remains questionable to play on Sunday.
The top supporting trends for this game, found on Covers.com, are:
- Heat are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 road games.
- Heat are 11-5 ATS in their last 16 games playing on 2 days’ rest.
- Trail Blazers are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games following an ATS win.
- Trail Blazers are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 games against a team with a winning straight up record.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
The defense has been painful to watch in Portland.
Imagine trying to wrap your head around a team as talented offensively as the Trail Blazers allowing an average 119.3 points in their last three outings. No, they aren’t turning heads for beating a Pistons team that’s already down on its luck.
They’ll be trudging into this meeting with a truly elite defensive opponent on a back-to-back schedule. That isn’t easy to do this late in the season even with both games being at home. The Heat are the more rested team after getting two days off from live game action. They’re only allowing 44.2 percent shooting on the road this season. So they clearly have the defense to make things difficult on a Trail Blazers team that leans so heavily on their offensive production.
The problem is their defense has been atrocious to the point where the Heat will actually be able to knock down shots in this game. When the offense is clicking, Miami is dangerous enough to beat anyone in the NBA. Their defense is suffocating, and they play with too much heart to be denied in such instances. “Dame Time” or even “McCollum Time” won’t be enough to save the Trail Blazers on Sunday night.
I’m taking the points.
Full-Game Total Pick
The Heat will make the big defensive stops when they have to make them, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying they’re going to shut down the Trail Blazers. Good luck flexing your defensive muscles with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum on the opposite end of the floor. The Trail Blazers’ dynamic scoring duo are the main reasons why the team is still relevant at this point. They can’t play a lick of defense, and the Heat will take advantage and run up their offensive side of the stat sheet as well. Buckets have come easy against Portland all season, and Sunday won’t be an exception. Give me the over in this one.