Trail Blazers vs Heat Thursday, 01/10/13 AT 07:30PM

Trail Blazers Look To Continue Home Success Against Heat

01/10/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    The Trail Blazers (18-14, 7th in West) welcome LeBron James and the defending champion NBA Champion Miami Heat (23-10, 1st in East) to the Rose Garden for their only visit this year. Tip off is scheduled for 7:30 PM and the game will be televised nationally on TNT. It can also be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

    The Rose Garden is consistently one of the toughest places to play in the NBA and despite losing three straight at home early in the season, it is once again. Portland has now won eight straight games on the Rose Garden floor after dropping their first home game of December to the Kings. Portland has survived the first wrath of injuries quite well and avoided a trap-game for that eighth straight home win against Orlando, even though they needed overtime to do it.

    The Trail Blazers have had plenty of days off to prepare for the Heat, who've hit the skids, going 4-4 in eight games after their impressive Chrismas Day win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have the second-best record in the NBA. They've had losses at Detroit and Milwaukee and needed overtime to beat Orlando and Dallas in consecutive games. They were beaten by the Pacers who pummeled them on the glass and shut them down defensively.

    LaMarcus Aldridge practiced on Wednesday after an MRI revealed a sprain in his right wrist and he said he will play on Thursday against the Heat.

    All of that is the good news.

    Here is the bad news: LeBron James, whom Aldridge and others call the best player in the game, plays amazing against the Trail Blazers.

    "I don't know if it's because Nike is here, I don't know what it is about Oregon, he drinks the water and he gets these crazy powers overnight," Aldridge jested. "He will come here and make three after three and he wouldn't miss a shot. We'll be winning the whole game or most of the game and in the fourth quarter he would just turn it on and start making shots that were kind of crazy."

    James averages 30.1 points, his second-highest scoring average against an NBA team (Utah, 30.4) and 9.7 rebounds, his highest average against any NBA team. Despite their inability to rebound as of late, the Heat play small, often with James at the four and Chris Bosh at center. The marquee match-up is clearly between's Portland's best player in Aldridge and the World's best player. It's not uncharted waters or something that matters all that much to Aldridge, however.

    "He guarded me and I guarded him a little bit. It wasn't an overly big deal but yes, I have guarded him."

    The match-up between Aldridge and James will be an interesting one to be certain. However, how Miami will choose to attack Damian Lillard will be another point of intrigue. Miami's pressures the ball and the perimeter well and have disruptive defenders.

    Miami has hit a rough patch, as stated above and after getting beaten down against Indiana will likely want to make a statement in Portland. Miami's defensive numbers have dropped from their top-five status from earlier in the season to 14th as bigger teams have been able to expose the Heat's lack of size that wasn't exposed in the playoffs last year. Portland may not have pure size but double-double machine Hickson plays big and his activity could be a problem for the Heat. And, Aldridge will of course have a height advantage in his match-up against James. Portland's bigs will need to maximize any advantage they have against the Heat because it will still be a tough game, even if they dominate the glass like Indiana did.

    Despite playing different styles, the Trail Blazers and Heat have one thing in common, they've been great in close games this season. In games that are within five points with five minutes left, the Heat (13-3, .813) and Trail Blazers (14-4, .778) are first and second in winning percentage.

    If the game goes to crunch time, between James' dominance against Portland and the Trail Blazers home winning streak, something will have to give. You'll just have to tune in to find out what does.

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