No D-Wade dooms Heat's chances in Portland
The last thing Miami needed was to see its longtime linchpin go down with a handful of contests left. Dwayne Wade’s severe West Coast tumble, however, has suddenly created another major obstacle for the class of the Southeast Division.
Coach Erik Spoelstra will undoubtedly go deeper into his bench when the Heat take on the Trail Blazers in several hours. According to oddsmakers at online sports book BetDSI, the injury-riddled visiting squad is a 6.5-point underdog.
Wade’s spill in Wednesday’s 102-100 overtime loss to the Lakers rendered him unavailable last night at Sacramento, and his battered neck and back evidently felt even worse this morning. Power forward Chris Bosh obviously remains sidelined by a recurrence of blood clots. It all adds up to a less-than-secure playoff position, although Miami (44-31) remained tied with Charlotte and Atlanta for third in the East entering the evening.
Here’s one small consolation: Portland’s marquee performer continues to specialize in brick-laying. Damian Lillard’s in the midst of a week-long stretch in which only 27.9 percent of his shots have fallen. Rip City nonetheless mustered a 35-point fourth quarter against the Celtics on Thursday, improving to 3-0 on this four-game homestand.
With role players such as Al-Farouq Aminu (career-high 28 points vs. Boston) and Allen Crabbe picking up the slack, the Blazers (40-36) keep rolling. They’ll be keen to avenge that 116-109 defeat to the Heat on Dec. 20, too. This affair could get out of hand especially early unless Spoelstra prioritizes post touches for Hassan Whiteside (17.9 points and 13.6 rebounds since the All-Star break).
SATURDAY NBA FREE PICK: PORTLAND -6.5