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Danny

Trail Blazers at HEAT Official Game Thread and Preview

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(Photo Credit: Victor Baldizon)

The Miami HEAT wrap up a five-game homestand against the Portland Trail Blazers Tuesday night. The Blazers edged the HEAT in their first matchup of the season. The HEAT have won five straight. Tip off is set for 7:30 PM; coverage on Sun Sports starts at 7 PM.

1: Damian Lillard’s three-point shooting has almost dipped as low as 30 percent in February. Is there cause for concern?

Couper Moorhead: It’s a combination of random variation, Lillard’s legs likely tiring out a bit as will any rookie’s and, largely, the fact that Lillard takes more than half of his long jumpers off the dribble. For a good chunk of the season Lillard was among the top three in the league in any category involving unassisted or off-dribble jumpers and while some players – by some I mean Steve Nash – can sustain that type of pace for seasons and seasons, even the most talented players are going to see those numbers peak and valley over the course of their career.

Danny Martinez: The simple drop in shooting percentage was to be expected I think. Lillard has a ton on his plate. He plays a ton of minutes, has a really high usage rate and is relied on to create for others. I’m not sure if the “rookie wall” exists, but if it does, Lillard has probably hit it a little bit. Outside of that, Lillard takes a lot of suspect shots, namely unassisted threes. While he might be better than other players at shooting off of the dribble, his early season rates really weren’t sustainable. Still, Lillard is going to be really, really good.

2: How has Nic Batum improved this season?

Couper: While Batum isn’t shooting nearly as well as he was last season, his assist rate has almost tripled. While players can naturally improve their passing over time, such a huge jump typically comes from an increased playmaking role, which Terry Stotts has bestowed upon Batum this season to good effect. Batum always flashed a little more off-dribble creativity with the French National Team than he did for years with Portland, but it’s now clear that there was more to tap into than we previously knew. It’s this playmaking that will separate Batum from other athletic, sharp-shooting, defensive players.

Danny: Couper hit the nail on the head. Offensively, not much has changed for Batum other than the assist rate. Batum is being relied on to create for teammates and it’s been a nice development. His three-point shooting is down, but still quite good. Batum now posses all kinds of threats to defenses.

3: Who defends LeBron tonight?

Couper: Terry Stotts cross-matched in the first matchup, with Wes Matthews slotting up to the small forward spot to defend LeBron while Batum took on Dwyane Wade. It was a surprising move at first, but it worked incredibly well given Matthews strength and Batum’s length each proved a strong foil for LeBron and Wade in the post. The cross-matching, with LeBron still guarding Batum on the other end, creating some messy transition opportunities for both teams in the first quarter, so this is something to keep an eye on.

Danny: If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. The Blazers were very successful with Wes Matthews defending LeBron. Matthews is strong and has a low center of gravity, which can be difficult to deal with. In high-leverage situations, I’d expect Matthews on LeBron, but LeBron will also see a fair amount of Batum on the night. LeBron doesn’t appear to be the kind of player who lets the same player get the best of him regularly. If he has to deal with Matthews, I’m sure LeBron will have a new plan of attack.

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Miami's been takin their game more seriously as of late, seems to be a concentrated effort to close out and get on track before the break. Hopefully they can continue this when we come back, expect them to and get in a routine. I'm waitin to see how we approach this game, but am more anxious to see how we do against OKC!

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guys, just defend the kaboom town and we'll be fine, Heat by 14.

i want to see some dagger from Ray also because the last previous games he's shooting around 4/28 from the field.

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Sorry Danny but i disagree with you on that

Offensively, not much has changed for Batum other than the assist rate.

i mean last year, he didnt play that much last year that's why he wanted to leave the blazers then ?

He made a great performance in december : 11 pts, 10 assists, 5 rebounds, 5 steals and 5 blocks.

Every time he is playing great, they almost won their game !

He is the go to guy this season with Damian Liliard

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MIAMI is going to need it's defense to be on point and the offense operating very efficiently. MIAMI has been playing well as of lately, let's hope that they don't get lackadasical and relax on the Blazers. MIAMI should be on a mission to crush these guys, allowing the starters to take the 4th quarter off. Get revenge...TEAM HEAT since '88!

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Miller is the next Flu victim. He's out of today's skirmish.

Dammit Birdman for still continuing spreading the bird flu

Anyways good thing this isnt a Portland home game, their analysts are of the most boring commentaries I've ever heard

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@MiamiHEAT: Udonis Haslem (right lower leg contusion) will not return to tonight's #HEATgame.

Dam get better UD.

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