Aldridge A No-Go
Portland (37-33 ATS, 41-28-1 O/U at sportsbooks) started a five-game trip through the Eastern Conference with a 124-94 blowout loss in Charlotte, the Blazers' sixth defeat in their past nine games. It was the most points scored this season by Charlotte and also its biggest margin of victory. Damian Lillard led Portland with 20 points, his career-high-tying eighth game in a row with at least 20. Perhaps Portland, which had beaten Charlotte by 30 earlier this season at home, was looking ahead to this game.
Blazers All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge missed his fifth straight game with a back injury and is not going to play in this one. Portland is 7-3 without him overall this season. Dorell Wright has been starting in his place as the Blazers have played with a smallish starting five. He has averaged 12.2 points and 5.2 rebounds in 21.6 minutes over the past five games. It also means more minutes for guys like Thomas Robinson and Victor Claver.
Portland's slump is coming at a bad time as it now looks as if the Blazers won't have home-court advantage in a first-round playoff series. As things stand they would face Houston. The Blazers are just 6-12 in their past 18 road games and 14-16 overall since starting the season 31-9.
Take a look at our NBA Picks of the Day for more free plays.
Heat Having Issues
Hard to imagine the Heat looking past a good Portland team here, but the Heat do have a huge one at Indiana on Wednesday. Lose that one and the top seed in the Eastern Conference is going to be tough to get.
Miami (30-36-2 ATS, 39-39 O/U at sportsbooks) has lost seven of 11. It was beaten 105-95 in New Orleans on Saturday night. Dwayne Wade sat it out, not a surprise considering it was the second of a back-to-back. LeBron James played his second straight after missing Wednesday's game with back spasms. He had 25 points and was two rebounds and one assist from a triple-double. It was the ninth time this season LeBron has led the team in points, rebounds and assists.
James also tweaked an ankle in the Pelicans game but should play here. Ditto Wade. The Heat defense has really been lacking in that 11-game run as seven of the opponents have shot at least 49 percent from the field. The Pelicans, not exactly an offensive powerhouse outside of Anthony Davis, hit 51.2 percent from the field. Davis treated Chris Bosh like an ugly stepchild and was the best player on the floor Saturday.
On Dec. 28 in Portland the Heat beat the Blazes 108-107 in one of the best games of the year. Bosh hit a 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left and had a season-high 37 points; he took a whopping 26 shots. LeBron sat out with an injury. Aldridge missed a jumper at the buzzer to win it. He finished with 22 points and seven rebounds. Both teams shot over 50 percent from the field. It was the first time a game between these teams ended with neither reaching triple-digit points since January 2008 (eight games).