Blazers set for challenge versus Heat

Updated: December 28, 2013

( – Two of the NBA’s best do battle Saturday night when the
two-time defending champion Miami Heat head to the Moda Center to face the
Portland Trail Blazers.

The Blazers have won two straight and seven of their last eight. They are
undefeated in their last three at home and have scored over 100 points in
their last 16 games, during which the Blazers went 13-3.

On Thursday, Portland needed overtime and knocked off the Los Angeles
Clippers, 116-112.

“Well, another good win for us, obviously, against an elite team in the West,”
said Blazers coach Terry Stotts. “We just keep finding ways to win games,
making clutch shots, getting stops. We make it interesting at times, but I
thought it was a terrific game and I’m glad to get a win.”

LaMarcus Aldridge led the Blazers with 32 points on 15-for-31 shooting. He
also pulled down 10 rebounds.

“We’re not trying to get too far in front of ourselves,” said Aldridge. “We’re
going to keep working every night, keep getting better. If the chips put us in
a position to play for a championship, then we’ll do it, but we’re not going
to go off and start making these crazy goals right now.”

Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum both had 19 points, while Damian Lillard
added 14. Mo Williams finished with 12 off the bench and Robin Lopez
registered a double-double with 11 points and 15 rebounds.

The Blazers are 12-2 in the Rose City this season and 11-0 against the East.

Miami enters Saturday’s tilt on the heels of a 108-103 overtime loss in
Sacramento the night before. The Kings had a 19-14 advantage in the extra
period and were led by DeMarcus Cousins, who had 27 points and 17 boards.

“Cousins was a big body in there and made some big putbacks late,” said Miami
head coach Erik Spoelstra. “(Gay) got hot. He made some easy ones, some open
ones, and some tough ones. That’s usually how it goes.”

Heat star LeBron James scored a game-high 33 points to go along with eight
assists and eight boards. James, though, appeared to sustain a groin injury
during the second quarter and will be evaluated before Saturday’s tilt. He
could sit this one out to rest and avoid further damage.

“Uh, it’s not feeling too well right now,” James said of the groin. “I don’t
know what happened in the first half. I played the whole second half and
overtime, strained my groin, so I’ll see how I feel on our trip to Portland
tonight and tomorrow, but it ain’t feeling too good right now.”

Chris Bosh had 18 points in the loss for the Heat, who had won six in a row
and eight of nine games.

Miami played without Dwyane Wade (knee), Ray Allen (knee), and Chris Andersen
(back). All three are day-to-day.

The Heat are 8-5 away from home and still have Denver to visit on this four-
game western road trip (1-1).

Miami has emerged victorious in three of the last four visits to Portland. The
Heat struggled against Cousins on Friday and hope to slow down Aldridge, who
has been named Western Conference Player of the Week three times this season.