The Portland Trail Blazers, who occupy sixth place in the Western Conference, will visit the Eastern Conference's sixth-placed Miami Heat for a matchup on Thursday night. Though the prospects for both teams scream NBA Playoffs, the Trail Blazers and the Heat are on a rough patch right now.
The 2020-21 NBA season has not been easy for the Miami Heat (22-22 record). Their stars have missed several games due to various reasons, such as injuries and Covid-19. Moreover, having the second-shortest time between the 2020 NBA Finals and the current campaign was always going to be a problem for Eric Spoelstra's team. The Heat are on a four-game losing streak right now.
The Portland Trail Blazers, on the other hand, have a 25-18 record but have lost their previous two games and are 4-4 in their last eight outings. While the situation is not very problematic for the Trail Blazers, a third consecutive loss would not be good for the team.
This will be the first of two matchups between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Miami Heat in the 2020-21 NBA season.
Portland Trail Blazers vs Miami Heat prediction
The Portland Trail Blazers have been a better team than the Miami Heat in the 2020-21 NBA season, despite missing CJ McCollum for 25 games. Their starting center, Jusuf Nurkic, also played only 12 games this season.
The Trail Blazers have a great offense (sixth-best in the NBA), led by Damian Lillard. However, their defense ranks 29th in the NBA, while they are 20th in Net Rating.
The Miami Heat's struggling offense (25th in the NBA) should take advantage of the Portland Trail Blazers' defensive issues. The Heat's defensive system (seventh-best in the NBA) should do a good job of preventing the Trail Blazers' offense from dominating the matchup.
It will definitely be a good battle between two contrasting teams. With stars on both sides, the game should be highly competitive.
Portland Trail Blazers vs Miami Heat combined starting 5
Point Guard - Damian Lillard | Shooting Guard - CJ McCollum | Small Forward - Jimmy Butler | Power Forward - Bam Adebayo | Center - Enes Kanter.
The superstar of the Portland Trail Blazers, Damian Lillard, has surely been one of the top performers in the NBA 2020-21 season. He is putting up 30 points, 7.7 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game, with 45/38/94 shooting splits. He is a strong candidate for the NBA MVP award.
Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum still needs to get his rhythm back after missing 25 games with a fractured foot. In the five games he has played after coming back, he has made 33% of his field goals and 37% of his threes, averaging 16.4 points per game in that stretch. Against the Dallas Mavericks in March 19th, McCollum had a vintage performance with 32 points and seven three-pointers.
Miami Heat's Tyler Herro came close to taking the shooting guard spot in this combined 5, but McCollum's stats percentages are a lot better, even though he has only played 18 games this year.
Jimmy Butler has been the Miami Heat's main piece in the 2020-21 NBA season. The veteran is leading the team in points per game, assists per game and steals per game. He is averaging 21 points, 7.3 assists, 7.9 rebounds and two steals per game in the current campaign.
Bam Adebayo is another essential piece for the Miami Heat. He has significantly helped the team this season, especially when other key players like Butler, Tyler Herro and Goran Dragic have missed lots of games.
Adebayo is having a career year. He is averaging 19 points, 9.5 rebounds and a career-high 5.4 assists per game so far. He's also been efficient from the floor, with a 56% shooting percentage and a huge 85% from the free-throw line.
On the Portland Trail Blazers' frontcourt, Enes Kanter has really made coach Stotts and the entire Blazers' team forget about Nurkic's absence.
Kanter has played in each of the Portland Trail Blazers 43 games so far and has started 31 times. He is averaging 12.1 points and 11.6 rebounds with a 60% field-goal percentage and 78% from the free-throw line. He also has 24 double-doubles this season.