The Trail Blazers have lost two consecutive games after winning their previous three contests at home. Their most recent loss, a 116-112 setback to the Brooklyn Nets, was particularly difficult to swallow because the visitors were playing without two of their superstars. Their poor shooting doomed them in the last two games, but they cannot afford to shoot badly again when they go on the road for the next four games.
The Heat, on the other hand, have lost their last four games. Three of those losses came at home, which makes their current losing streak more alarming. During that stretch, they've only averaged 100.3 points per game while shooting 41 percent from the floor.
Only one team can arrest its skid on Thursday, making this matchup a crucial one.
Portland Trail Blazers vs Miami Heat Injury Update
Portland Trail Blazers
Nassir Little and Anfernee Simons have been listed as questionable for the Portland Trail Blazers' game against the Miami Heat on Thursday, according to The Oregonian’s Aaron Fentress.
The two players have been out due to the league’s health and safety protocols but could be back within the next game or so.
If Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes’ earlier report about Jusuf Nurkic returning within two weeks was accurate, the Portland Trail Blazers center should be back within a week. He is currently rehabbing from a surgically repaired right wrist. The injury has sidelined him since the 12th game of the season.
Zach Collins, who is also on rehab from a surgically repaired left ankle, could be back before the start of the postseason and will play a few regular-season games, according to The Athletic's Jason Quick.
Miami Heat backup big Udonis Haslem is sidelined for the Portland Trail Blazers game due to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols, according to the Associated Press’ Tim Reynolds. Though he hasn’t appeared in any games this season, this will be the fourth consecutive game where he is not available to play.
KZ Okpala is in the same boat as Haslem, with the second-year forward also out due to COVID-19 protocols. This will be his third consecutive missed game, and the Miami Heat have not yet confirmed when he can return to action.
Portland Trail Blazers vs Miami Heat Predicted Lineups
Portland Trail Blazers
Without Simons and Little, Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts has given more playing time to Derrick Jones Jr. and Rodney Hood.
Even with Simons and Little returning soon, Hood should continue to take the lion’s share of the minutes. Jones is already the starter at small forward, but Stotts has increased his minutes to mirror that of Damian Lillard’s and CJ McCollum’s.
Since Nurkic and Collins are still out, Enes Kanter will continue to be the starting center. Kanter splits time at the position with Carmelo Anthony and Robert Covington, although Harry Giles could play some backup minutes should the matchup favor the Blazers.
Udonis Haslem’s absence won’t affect coach Erik Spoelstra’s rotation since the veteran forward/center hasn’t appeared in any games for the Miami Heat this season.
Okpala, on the other hand, has been playing an average of more than 20 minutes a night in the last five games. Those minutes have so far been split between Precious Achiuwa and Trevor Ariza. Depending on the matchups tonight, Chris Silva could also see time on the court.
Portland Trail Blazers vs Miami Heat Predicted Starting 5s
Portland Trail Blazers:
Point Guard - Damian Lillard l Shooting Guard - CJ McCollum l Small Forward - Jimmy Butler l Power Forward - Kelly Olynyk l Center - Bam Adebayo
Point Guard - Kendrick Nunn l Shooting Guard - Duncan Robinson l Small Forward - Derrick Jones Jr. l Power Forward - Robert Covington l Center - Enes Kanter