The Miami Heat continue a six-game road trip on Wednesday when they visit the Portland Trail Blazers.
Miami comes in halfway through its road swing, which matches the Heat’s longest this season. After starting the trek Dec. 31 with a 120-110 win at Houston, Miami dropped its last two against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday 115-113 and Monday at Golden State 115-108.
The loss to the Warriors came with an additional toll. Jimmy Butler was helped off the court in the third quarter having sustained what the team later announced was a right ankle injury. He has been ruled out against the Blazers.
“We don’t ever want a guy like Jimmy to hurt his ankle, but it’s one of those things where he’s played through this,” Heat point guard Kyle Lowry said. “We all know he did it in the Washington game, he didn’t take a rest, and continued to play.”
The Sun Sentinel reported the team hopes to have Butler back by the end of the week. Butler sets the tone offensively for Miami with a team-leading 23.2 points per game, but also leads the way for one of the league’s most aggressive defenses with 2.0 steals a game.
Amid a rash of absences from the lineup, the Heat are on a four-game streak of surrendering more than five points per game above their average. Miami’s 104.2-point per game allowed ranks fourth best in the NBA through Tuesday, but it has allowed an average of 113.0 points in its last four.
Miami was already without Bam Adebayo due to a torn ligament in his right thumb that required surgery. Dewayne Dedmon has been sidelined since Dec. 26 with a knee injury and Markieff Morris last played Nov. 8 when he sustained a neck injury in an altercation with Denver’s Nikola Jokic. KZ Okpala missed the last three games due to a wrist injury and he, too, has been ruled out for Wednesday’s game.
Duncan Robinson, Gabe Vincent and Marcus Garrett have not played any of the three games on the road trip due to health and safety protocol, while Max Strus has missed the Heat’s last four games.
Portland endured its own misfortunes due to protocol and injuries of late. With a litany of players sidelined over the past month – including 20.6-point scorer CJ McCollum since Dec. 6 with a collapsed lung – the Blazers have struggled.
They went through losing skids and seven and four games since the beginning of December, the latter of which they snapped Monday with a 136-131 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
Anfernee Simons erupted for a career-high 43 points in the victory, carrying the load with Damian Lillard (23.7 points per game) out for rest.
“I really can’t take credit for how well I played tonight,” Simons said to ROOT Sports Northwest after his 9-of-16 shooting performance from 3-point range. Simons cited the death of his grandfather on Sunday for elevating him.
“This is all him, honestly. I (give) credit to him, dedicated this whole game to him.”
Norman Powell added 26 points in the win, which opened a five-game homestand for the Blazers. Nasir Little scored 22 points, and Jusuf Nurkic finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds in his return from a three-game absence due to health and safety protocol.
–Field Level Media