Miami Heat Continue Race for Playoffs Versus Portland


The Miami Heat (30-36) have been up and down all season and enjoyed one of their best victories on Monday over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Was that yet another turning point in the season? We’ll find out tonight when they host the Portland Trail Blazers (44-21), a team adjusting to the loss of a key player but still finding a way to win in the Western Conference.

Start Time: 7:30 p.m. EST
Location: Game will be played in Miami at the AmericanAirlines Arena
TV Info: Fox Sports
Radio: 104.3 The Ticket

There’s no time left for the Heat to give ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race, as the team maintains a slim hold on the eighth seed. With teams like Boston, Charlotte and Indiana all playing well of late, Miami’s tendency to reach new heights before plummeting to familiar lows has to be a thing of the past.

It’s been an ongoing theme for this season as Miami adjusts to lineup changes and injuries by giving fans tantalizing hope that they can be a legitimate playoff team. Then, they struggle with an opponent and remind us all that those hopes aren’t realistic with the loss of Chris Bosh to season-ending injury.

But if anyone can lead Miami, it’s Dwyane Wade, playing an at incredible level over the past few weeks and seemingly as determined as ever.

Wade scored an efficient 32 points against Cleveland on Monday (on 13-18 shooting) and has been averaging 29.4 on 56.7 percent shooting in his past six games. That’s remarkable considering he’s missed 18 games on the year and came back after the All-Star break and struggled to shake off the rust. He’s taken over the team and it’s reminiscent of what he did in the two seasons before the “Big 3” era began, when he carried a team of unproven players and older veterans into the playoffs almost single-handedly.

The Blazers have bounced back well after losing Wes Matthews to injury (Achilles tear) for the year, having won eight-of-nine games before dropping one in Washington. Damian Lillard had an uncharacteristically bad night, shooting just 5-of-18 in that game. Despite the lack of production from their All-Star point guard, Portland was able to cut a 25-point deficit to just 3 before failing down the stretch. You can expect Lillard to respond tonight, although he’s struggled in his two meeting against Miami, totaling just 35 points through both games.

Filling in for Matthews is Arron Afflalo, a rumored trade target for Miami who was picked up by the Trail Blazers from Denver before the NBA’s trade deadline. Expected to bolster a bench that hasn’t been productive, Afflalo’s turn as the starting two-guard has gone better than expected. He provides a lot of the same skills as Matthews although he isn’t as consistent from the perimeter. The matchup with Wade will be one to examine closely.

Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge, one of the deadliest mid-range shooters in the NBA, will be the toughest test for Miami. Udonis Haslem has been starting in place of Bosh and will have his hands full guarding Aldridge, who uses his height and length to extend his high release well above defenders. Aldridge has averaged 24.4 points in eight previous games against the Heat and that was with Bosh – at 6’11”- defending him as well as can be expected. The platoon of Haslem, Michael Beasley and Henry Walker will be sorely tested.

The challenge of finding consistency is common across the league and while Portland has responded well, Miami still has something to prove. They’ll have to find a reason (other than LeBron James) to be engaged and motivated.

Check back with All U Can Heat for a full recap, post-game grades, analysis and more.

More from All U Can Heat