The Miami Heat are playing well heading into the All-Star break. Miami has won its last five games and 10 of its last 12 contests. The Heat's record stands at 34-14, two-and-a-half games ahead of New York for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Heat will look to continue rolling tonight against the Portland Trail-Blazers at 7:30 and head into the team's marquee matchup Thursday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder with some momentum.
Miami has defeated three Western Conference teams recently -- the Houston Rockets and both Los Angeles teams. The Blazers currently stand between the Rockets and the Lakers in the standings, occupying the ninth seed. Portland is looking for a playoff berth in a post-Brandon Roy era and will play hard, but the Heat players surely remember these teams' first meeting. Miami held a lead for most of the night Jan. 10 in Portland and was up 80-68 with eight minutes remaining. But Wesley Matthews' back-to-back 3s in the final minute -- and Mario Chalmers' miss from at the buzzer to win -- gave the Blazers the come-from-behind victory. LeBron James shot just 6-of-16 that night and failed to score 20 points that night, and we'll have to see if the three-time MVP's streak of otherworldly shooting continues.
Chris Bosh's matchup with LaMarcus Aldridge will be key here. Aldridge is averaging 21 points and nine rebounds this year, and Bosh has to keep him honest on defense. Bosh notched a double-double Sunday against the Lakers -- even out-rebounding Dwight Howard -- so hopefully he's moved past the flu. James and Wade struggled a bit in first meeting between these teams; James had trouble posting up Matthews, and Nicolas Batum's length bothered Wade. Both players have played exceptional lately, though. The Blazers don't have a particularly deep team, so the Heat simply need to make Damian Lillard, Aldridge and the rest of that starting five struggle from the field. Miami should have won the first Blazers/Heat game, and the Heat players simply have to emulate what they've done these past three games against other West opponents.