NBA Picks and Predictions: Portland Trail Blazers at Miami Heat

Goran Dragic has struggled shooting the ball but is showing signs of coming around.
Goran Dragic has struggled shooting the ball but is showing signs of coming around.

Portland Trail Blazers at Miami Heat
Spread: MIA -5
Total: 193

Betting odds c/o CRIS

The Miami Heat have one of the league’s toughest defense which had led it to a 15-10 record and it will host the Portland Trail Blazers at NOON Central Time on NBA League Pass.

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The Heat are 11-5 at home this season and had a three-game win streak snapped by the Toronto Raptors on Friday night. The Heat simply could not keep pace with the Raptors who put up 108 points on a team that surrenders just 94.4 points per game this season. The Heat got 39 points from its starting backcourt of Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic, as the pair hit 16 of 29 from the field.

But the rest of the Heat shot just 19 of 45 (42 percent) and Miami was negative-4 on the glass. Gerald Green came off the bench to hit five threes en route to 20 points, but the Raptors simply had it cooking offensively.

Toronto shot 51.3 percent as a team and turned it over just seven times in the game. Miami’s typically stringent defense had particularly little effect on DeMar DeRozan as the one-time All-Star scored 30 points, including 10 of 13 from the free throw line.

Miami desperately wants to get Dwyane Wade one more thank you ring before retirement, but it may take some crafty trade maneuvers to do it. Center Hassan Whiteside is playing great basketball on the defensive end of the court as Miami’s most valuable young cog, but he makes less than one million per season and is a free agent at season’s end.

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Any trade involving Whiteside would have to come with an assurance he will re-sign with the given team at season’s end. He is almost certain to command a max contract as the league’s leading shot blocker by a wide margin with 3.96 blocks per game. The Heat are at a crossroads with the young center, because his value is clearly fifteen-fold of his current contract, so getting an equivalent talent could prove next to impossible.

Dragic got max money over the offseason and is finally starting to look as though he may be worth it. He has averaged 15.3 points and six assists over his last three games. In the loss to Toronto he hit 8 of 13 from the field and in the two games prior he was a combined 12 of 29.

Still, on the season Dragic is hitting just 43.8 percent from the floor which is three percent behind his career average. Getting Dragic to hit a higher clip of his threes would solve the problem in and of itself, as the gunner has shot just 26 percent from behind the arc (over his career he is a 35 percent mark).

In Portland, meanwhile, things have not been nearly as bad as anticipated following an offseason which saw the Trail Blazers lose four-fifths of its starting lineup. The lone returnee Damian Lillard has had a great season, but the surprise has been the play of fellow mid-major attendee C.J. McCollum.

McCollum played brilliantly in the 102-94 loss to the Orlando Magic Friday night, but Lillard was just 4 of 15 from the field and committed six turnovers.

On the year, Lillard and McCollum are combining for 44.4 points per game but the remainder of the Blazers squad puts up just 57 points combined. After Lillard and McCollum, there are essentially almost no dangerous scorers, even though Allen Crabbe can get it cooking in limited minutes. Crabbe is averaging nearly 10 points per game in just 24 minutes a night, while shooting 48 percent from the floor and 38 percent from downtown.

Lillard and McCollum shoot 41 and 43 percent, respectively, but both are high volume scorers and Lillard in particular has a huge role as the team’s playmaker and premier scorer.

The Blazers frontcourt is especially woeful and Nikola Vucevic exploited it in fine fashion for the Magic on Friday, hitting 12 of 22 and really never having much trouble getting any shot the Magic wanted him to. Both Mason Plumlee and Meyers Leonard have worlds of strides to make on the defensive end of the court, not the least of which is keeping centers like Vucevic from establishing good low post position.

While Whiteside is not quite the offensive force Vucevic is, he is a big bodied center that can make the Blazers pay if they do not frequently double team Whiteside. Miami is not a good offensive team, but Portland is not a good defensive team. Expect the Heat to prevail as NBA oddsmakers have accordingly set the line.

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