The Miami Heat, losers of four straight games, are set to host the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night in a battle between a pair of playoff-type teams who have had some poor shooting games recently.
Portland is sixth in the Western Conference standings, and Miami entered Wednesday tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference.
But Miami is shooting just 41 percent from the floor and 28 percent from three-point range during its current skid, even though Heat players and coaches do not seem to be overly concerned.
“We know we’re not playing to our capabilities,” Heat guard Kendrick Nunn said. “But we’ll get things together.”
Miami, just 12-11 at home this season and 0-3 on this homestand that ends on Thursday, will be playing Portland for the first time this season. Last season, when the Heat made it to the NBA Finals, they split two games with Portland. Each team won on its home floor.
Portland, which will start a four-game road trip on Thursday, is also in a bit of a funk, losing two consecutive contests. One of those losses was particularly embarrassing as the Blazers got blown out at home, losing 132-92 to the Dallas Mavericks.
Like the Heat lately, Portland’s aim was off. The Blazers shot 22 percent on three-pointers, while Dallas — which started the third quarter on a 19-0 run — shot 51.4 percent from deep.
“Anytime me, CJ (McCollum) and (Carmelo Anthony) go 0-for-16 on three-pointers, we’re not going to have much of a chance,” Portland’s Damian Lillard said.
For the season, Lillard ranks second in the NBA in scoring (30.1) and ninth in assists (7.7). In 16 career games against Miami, he is averaging 25.1 points and 6.6 assists. In the two games against Miami last season, he averaged 33.5 points and 10 assists.
McCollum, Lillard’s backcourt mate, is on pace to average better than 20 points for a sixth straight season. McCollum, 29, is averaging a career-high 23.8 points and might get a lot more notoriety if he weren’t playing in Lillard’s shadow.
For the season, McCollum is shooting 87.3 percent on free throws and a career-best 42.5 percent on three-pointers.
Portland’s other starters are former Heat wing Derrick Jones, a sensational leaper who is averaging 8.0 points, center Enes Kanter, who is averaging 12.1 points and a team-high 11.6 rebounds, and Robert Covington, who is averaging 8.6 points.
The Blazers bench includes future Hall of Famer Anthony (14.0 points) and Gary Trent, who is having a career year, averaging 15.0 points.
Miami is led by Jimmy Butler, who tops the team in scoring (21.3), assists (7.3) and steals (2.0). Versatile center Bam Adebayo is second in scoring (19.2) and assists (5.4) and first in rebounds (9.5).
But guard Goran Dragic, who usually sparks Miami’s second unit, has missed two straight games due to back spasms. And Miami’s normally reliable shooters — including Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson and Kelly Olynyk — have gone stone cold during this losing streak.
“We’re going to keep plugging away until we find the right solutions,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’re better than what we’ve shown the past four games on the offensive end.”
–Field Level Media