Portlandians will get a dose of South Beach sunshine when the Heat pay a visit to Stumptown this evening.
Though the 23-10 reigning champs boast the best record in the Eastern Conference, they are not shining brightly of late.
The Heatles dropped 4 of their last 7 games. Two of Miami’s three victories over this stretch were overtime grinders, and the other was against the hapless Wizards.
Coach Erik Spoelstra’s guys continue to get manhandled on the glass. They rank 29th in the association in rebounding and are last in the East in second chance points allowed at 15.4 per game.
Also, Miami is just 7-7 away from SoBe this season. It’s easier for a team to straighten out its problems at home with a lot of practice time, but the Heat will have to figure things out on the road during a 5-game West Coast swing.
On the other bench, the 19-15 Blazers have won eight games in a row at home and are 11-3 in their past 14 contests. They have a solid home record of 12-4.
Portland is led by 7th-year, 6’11” PF LaMarcus Aldridge. The team captain is the highest scoring 4-man in the league at 20.6 ppg, and he’s just one of four players in the NBA who average at least 20 points and 8 boards per game.
Also leading this surprising Portland squad is ROY frontrunner PG Damian Lillard. The 6’3” Oakland native was taken 6th overall in last spring’s draft and is putting up 18.2 ppg, 6.5 apg and 3.4 rpg. Importantly, each of the Trail Blazers starters is averaging double figures in points.
Portland last played on Monday at home beating the Orlando Magic 125-119 in OT. Aldridge had 27 points, 10 boards and 5 dimes while center J. J. Hickson went for 20 points and 15 boards. Amazingly, coach Terry Stotts’ team has gone 5-0 this season in games that boiled down to the five-minute bonus period.
On Tuesday, the struggling Heat lost at Indiana 87-77. The 77 points represent a season-low for Miami. The Big 3 scored 66, and the rest of the roster could only muster 11 points. As a team they shot a lousy 41.2 % and were outrebounded 55-36.
Tune in to TNT tonight at 10:30 PM ET to see if Miami can reverse their recent course and earn a road W.
Point guard Damian Lillard has exceeded expectations and demonstrated great maturity in his rookie campaign with the Trail Blazers.
The 6’3” Oakland native was selected 6th overall in last spring’s NBA draft after a tremendous career at Weber State, where he was a 2X Big Sky Conference Player of The Year.
In his pro debut against the Lakers on Halloween, Lillard went for 23 points and 11 assists, joining Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas as the only players in league history with at least 20 points and 10 assists in their first NBA games.
The hardworking freshman is the only Portland player to start all 33 matchups so far this season. The co-MVP of the 2012 NBA Summer League is putting up averages of 18.2 ppg, 6.4 apg, 3.4 rpg and 1 spg in 37.9 mpg.
Lillard has scored in double figures in 31 of his 33 contests. He has season highs of 29 points, 11 dimes (3X), 8 boards and 3 steals (2X).
Named Western Conference Rookies of the Month for December, Lillard is widely considered the front-runner for 2013 NBA Rookie of The Year.
Prior to the start of the season, Lillard’s average draft position in the hoops fantasy realm was between 90 and 100. Even though the league is stacked at the 1-spot, his fantasy value has risen to somewhere in the high twenties.
The main knock against this talented and brash rookie is his 42% shooting from the field. But Lillard makes 85% from the line and 37% from behind the arc. And his shooting should improve as the season progresses. If your roster needs a PG, Lillard is still a solid value.