Expect some fireworks to cap off the NBA’s Sunday slate as the Portland Trail Blazers (31-21) shoot it out with the Miami Heat (27-25) at the Moda Center. These two teams met previously with Portland edging the Heat by three points. Miami will be a slight favorite here by one point per the NBA odds.
I’ll go the other way and take the Blazers as underdogs. Miami will be without G Victor Oladipo (knee), who is a critical part of their defense. Without him, they will be prone to Portland’s hot shooting even if the last game was too close to call.
Miami Heat: Stop the Shooting
The Miami Heat, 5-5 in their last ten, have signified the type of team they can beat and the ones they struggle against. They’ve taken out the Lakers, Cavaliers, and Knicks but lost to the Hornets, Blazers, and Suns. They’ve split against the Pacers (1-1).
Generally, the Heat finds more success against teams that are offensively challenged particularly from range. The Cavaliers, Lakers, and Knicks are three of the worst offenses this season while the latter three are some of the best.
This Heat team is giving up the most threes in the NBA thanks to focusing on a zone defense due to their perimeter players being defensive liabilities. G/F Jimmy Butler and C Bam Adebayo are All-NBA Defensive Team-worthy but they’re just two players.
That’s why Miami went for Oladipo whose defensive versatility would’ve allowed them to freestyle more on defense. Without him, the Heat will once again be at the mercy of hot-shooting teams like Portland.
Portland Trail Blazers: It’s Always Dame Time
Love them or hate them, the Portland Trail Blazers will continue being that flawed but lovable NBA team that makes the playoffs but loses to a true contender. With that said, this team can beat any title contender thanks to its hot shooting led by Damian “Dame Time” Lillard.
Although he has yet to win a title or an MVP, Lillard has made a name for himself by lighting teams on fire. He’s close to being on the top ten of all-time three-pointers made and will likely finish just behind Curry when their careers end.
— NBA (@NBA) April 11, 2021
The Blazers are second in the NBA in three-pointers made and they’ve also committed the second-fewest turnovers. This team is like a well-oiled scoring machine and they have C Enes Kanter hauling down boards like a madman in place of oft-injured C Jusuf Nurkic.
But they remain a porous team on defense. They’re still the second-worst in this category and have to rely on their hot shooting to get them through. That has led to mixed results against quality teams. Yet so long as Lillard is firing away, the Blazers shouldn’t be counted out.
True to expectations, the last game featured plenty of three-point shooting as both teams combined for 36 threes on 80 attempts. Though Lillard did not have his best game (22 points on 6-of-19 shooting), CJ McCollum was there to pick up the slack.
McCollum dropped 35 points and went 14-of-25 from the field (6-of-14 from three). The Blazers shot 43.5% from downtown and yet were just three points better than Miami thanks to their notoriously bad defense.
I expect this game to play just like this one and with Portland again coming out on top. Miami has a glut of talented shooters, but the Blazers have the two best ones in Lillard and McCollum.
Lillard had an off-game the last time, but he averages 25 points with a 60.8 true shooting percentage (TS%) against them in his career. Bet on Dame and the Blazers to outshoot the Heat again this Sunday.
Pick: Portland Trail Blazers +1 (-110)