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Heat-Trail Blazers Preview
By TAYLOR BECHTOLD
(AP) -- As good as the Portland Trail Blazers have been at home, a visit by the defending NBA champion Miami Heat poses a serious threat to their winning streak.
The Heat, however, are still searching for answers amid their recent struggles.
The Trail Blazers will try for their ninth straight win at home and fourth in a row overall Thursday night when they take on slumping Miami, which makes its second stop on a six-game road trip.
Although they still have the best record in the Eastern Conference, the Heat (23-10) have won only three of their last seven, with two victories coming in overtime and the other against league-worst Washington.
Miami has been exposed on the boards, with a minus-9.2 rebounding margin in its last five games after getting outrebounded by 19 in an 87-77 loss at Indiana on Tuesday night.
Despite LeBron James averaging a career-high 8.3 rebounds, the Heat rank near the bottom of the NBA in rebounding (39.0 per game) and offensive boards (8.0). They're last among East teams in second-chance points allowed at 15.4 per game after being outscored 23-6 in that category Tuesday.
That could be a major concern against a Portland team that ranks fifth in the league in second-chance points (15.3 per game).
"At some point, enough will be enough for us and we'll take care of that department," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the team's rebounding woes.
Miami is just 7-7 on the road but has won its last three trips to Portland.
The Trail Blazers (19-15), meanwhile, have won eight straight at the Rose Garden and now seek their longest home winning streak since a 12-game run in the 2008-09 season.
Portland has won 11 of 14 overall after a 125-119 victory over Orlando on Monday night gave them a 5-0 record in overtime for the first time since 1986-87.
Wesley Matthews has keyed the current three-game win streak, averaging 23.7 points and hitting 14 of 22 from 3-point range.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 27 points and 10 rebounds Monday for his fourth double-double in five games. Aldridge, who has averaged 25.7 points in his last three games against the Heat, has reportedly been bothered by a wrist problem but is expected to play.
James has averaged 38.5 points and 11.3 rebounds in the last four meetings with Portland, shooting 65.5 percent from the field and 10 of 15 on 3-pointers. Dwyane Wade also has been tough on the Blazers, averaging 35.0 points over the past three matchups.
James and Wade combined for 71 points in a 107-93 victory at Portland when the teams last met March 1.
This time, Miami hopes to get back on track after finishing with a season-low point total and its second-lowest field goal percentage (41.2) against the defensive-minded Pacers.
The Heat, who lead the NBA in field-goal shooting (48.8 percent), could find scoring tough against a Portland team that has shown improvement on the defensive end.
While they're allowing opponents to average 99.2 points on the season, the Trail Blazers have limited teams to 91.0 in regulation during their eight-game home winning streak.
"We know that if we keep playing defense and we stay the course we can win some games," Aldridge said.
Updated January 9, 2013