Mon, 23 May 2022

Key starters back on both sides as Heat host Blazers

Field Level Media
19 Jan 2022, 05:55 GMT+10

The Portland Trail Blazers and the host Miami Heat are both overjoyed to have key starters back in their lineups for Wednesday night's meeting.

Blazers star CJ McCollum, who missed 18 games due to a collapsed lung, scored 16 points in 28 minutes in his first game back on Monday, helping Portlanddefeat the Orlando Magic, 98-88.

"I felt good," said McCollum, who made 7 of 13 shots from the floor, including 2 of 4 from 3-point range. "I worked extremely hard over the past two weeks to recondition and build my body back. I think you can tell."

Portland also expects to get starting wing Norman Powell back Wednesday. He has cleared the COVID-19 protocol but has missed five straight games as he works on conditioning.

For Miami, Monday featured the return of All-Star center Bam Adebayo, who missed 22 games after surgery on his right thumb.

He scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 32 minutes while wearing black tape on his right hand. He made just 4 of 12 shots, indicating he might still be rusty.

But Adebayo also made two key free throws with 8.5 seconds left in Miami's 104-99 win over the Toronto Raptors.

"You can see his energy out there," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He makes us different."

The Heat improved to 14-5 at home this season.

Miami is also 19-8 against the East, but just 9-8 against Western Conference teams such as Portland.

Then again, the Heat won at Portland on Jan. 5, beating the Blazers 115-109 in their most recent matchup.

Miami closed out that win without its top four players as Adebayo was still out, Jimmy Butler had an ankle injury, and Kyle Lowry and Tyler Herro were ejected, the latter for a fight with Portland's Jusuf Nurkic.

The Blazers closed the game without three starters: Nurkic was ejected, Larry Nance Jr. left in the third quarter due to a knee injury, and star Damian Lillard missed the entire contest due to an abdominal injury.

Nance and Lillard are still out, and that's a major issue for the Blazers, who are just 4-14 on the road this season.

Portland, though, can draw some hope for Wednesday's game due to the fact that the Blazers are much better once they get out of their own conference. They are 10-6 against the East but just 8-19 against the West.

The Blazers are on a three-game win streak against Eastern Conference teams, and that includes victories over the Brooklyn Nets and Washington Wizards.

Lillard leads Portland in scoring (24.0) and assists (7.3). But since he is unavailable after recent surgery, McCollum (20.4 points, 4.4 assists) becomes more important.

Portland's other three double-figure scorers are Powell (18.6), Anfernee Simons (14.6) and Nurkic (13.9). Nurkic also leads the team in rebounds (10.6).

In that most recent game against Miami, Simons (28) and Powell (26) were the game's top two scorers.

For the Heat on Wednesday, the biggest question mark is Lowry, who ranks fifth in the NBA in assists (8.3). He missed Monday's game for what was announced as "personal reasons," and his status has not been announced.

Butler leads Miami in scoring (22.4) and steals (1.9). Herro is second in scoring (20.7). Adebayo leads the team in rebounds (10.1) and ranks third in scoring (18.5).

--Field Level Media

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