The Miami Heat lost a very winnable game Friday night, blowing a 17-point lead early and making several uncharacteristic miscues in the fourth quarter in a 108-103 decision in Sacramento. And the Heat have a marquee matchup today, playing the West-leading Portland Trail Blazers in the Rose Garden.
Unlike subpar teams, Miami tends to get up to play the league's best. But unfortunately, the Heat may be yet again shorthanded.
LeBron James strained his groin in the second quarter of Miami's loss to the Kings, and he visibly limped in the closing seconds of the overtime period. His status for tonight's game is questionable. The Heat were also without Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen and Chris Andersen last night. One would expect Wade to return -- who has been held out of all but one set of back-to-backs this season -- and Allen and Andersen have minor injuries.
James has not missed a game this year, and he may decide that this late December game means little in the grand scheme of things. On the other hand, he could decide that he will only play in Portland once, and many of them want to see him play (it's been James' own justification for playing before).
Depending on James' availability, Miami's game plan is up in the air. But it will be interesting to see if Shane Battier starts defending the opponent's power forward -- in this case, LaMarcus Aldridge -- tonight. Erik Spoelstra may have to use the Chris Bosh/Chris Andersen tandem again tonight to match up with Aldridge and Robin Lopez. Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole will again have their hands full with sophomore sensation Damian Lillard, one of the most exciting young guards in the NBA. And Miami will have to keep former player Dorell Wright in mind, who comes off the bench for Portland.
Depending on who is available to suit up, the Heat could essentially rely on its bench or put together its team at full stretch. We'll see shortly before the 10 o'clock tip.