Game Details: Rose Garden Arena, Portland, OR. 6:00 PM. TV: CSN. Radio KXTG (95.5 FM)
Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Andre Miller (#24, 6’2’’, Utah), SG Wesley Matthews (#2, 6’5’’, Marquette), SF Nicolas Batum (#88, 6’9’’, France), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6’11’’, Texas), C Marcus Camby (#23, 6’11’’, UMass)
Projected Miami Starting Lineup: PG Carlos Arroyo (#8, 6’2’’, Florida International), SG Dwayne Wade (#3, 6’4’’, Marquette), SF LeBron James (#6, 6’8’’, St. Vincent-St. Mary High School), PF Chris Bosh (#1 6’10’’, Georgia Tech), C Zydrunas Illgauskas (#11, 7’3’’, Lithuania)
Here it is Portland, the day that we have all been waiting for. Maybe not waiting for, but at the very least circled on our calendars way back when the this NBA season began, then slowly forgot about as the drama of Trail Blazer basketball unfolded. It’s funny to think, in the world of the NBA, the daily ups and downs of the Miami Heat register more than what happens with the only team in the great Northwest.
Most of us watched on TV, some of us listened on the radio, last summer as LeBron James destroyed his image with one of the most ill conceived stunts ever hoisted upon the professional sports viewing public. Some, like me with close friends from Cleveland, were able to see just how personal the King’s departure for South Beach really was. Collectively, again, we watched as LeBron, Wade, and Bosh got 2010-11 off to a shaky start, and we cheered.
All that is over now. Miami rolls into Portland Sunday evening with the league’s third best record, with the second most total wins in the league, and owners of an eight-game wining streak. Beyond their current streak, Miami put together a 12-gamer that was stopped with their most recent loss, December 20th at the hands of the Mavericks in Miami. The Heat has lost only once in the month of December, and has won 20 of their last 21 games. To say Miami has overcome whatever was holding them down during the first few weeks of the season is something of an understatement.
Along with dominating in the state of Florida, the Heat has been near unbeatable on the road. Miami has won 12 straight road games. Part of Miami’s excellence on the road likely stems from the open hostility from opposing fans, no doubt there will be some of that on display Sunday in Portland.
Miami is a beatable team, and the Blazers shouldn’t be expected to roll over. Portland isn’t as hot as Miami right now, but the Blazers are in the middle of establishing themselves. LaMarcus Aldridge continues to build on his leadership role, and Wesley Matthews has shown that as a starter he can make things happen. Miami’s offense is built on the shoulders of LeBron James. He can’t be stopped, but he can be contained. Dwayne Wade is as good a second option as any in the league, and Chris Bosh is Chris Bosh. Not an All-Star when teamed with All-Stars, but pretty good, all things considered.
James, Wade, and Bosh are currently averaging 24.8, 24.7, and 18.4 points per game in that order. Those are big numbers, to be sure, but after the big three it starts to get interesting. Like Portland, Miami isn’t deep. The fourth leading scorer for the Heat is Udonis Haslem, and he averages only eight points per game, and is currently on the disabled list.
Portland will not be able to stop James and Wade from getting theirs, the key will be to limit Bosh and to not let any of Miami’s role players have a big night. Two of those role players, Eric Dampier and Juwan Howard, are not young men. Luckily for Miami, their role players are the kind that know well, and play their roles. None of the Heat not named Dwayne and LeBron play outside of the team game.
Speaking of Juwan, expect a nice round of applause from the home crowd when he takes the court. The MVP of last season, he may not be remembered as a Trail Blazer, but the Portland fans will never forget what he brought his one season in Rip City.
A bright spot for Portland, and something that should give this team hope; in their last time out, the Heat were taken to overtime by the Milwaukee Bucks. The Blazer’s handled the Bucks in Portland, and though they won’t be able to run the Heat out of the Rose Garden, there’s plenty of potential for a big win on Sunday.