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NBA Preview from The Sports Network



Tuesday, March 8th (All times eastern)

Portland Trail Blazers (36-27) at Miami Heat (43-20), 7:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - Miami's struggles in close games and against the top teams in the NBA have been well-documented this season. Now the Heat have another crisis on their hands as they get ready to welcome the Portland Trail Blazers to South Beach -- "Crygate."

A day after Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said there was "a couple guys crying in the locker room" after Sunday's disappointing 87-86 loss to the Chicago Bulls he attempted to clarify the situation by claiming he saw "glossy eyes, but heard no whimpering."

In the end whether grown men were crying after the 63rd game of the NBA season is really inconsequential. The real problem is that the star-studded Heat simply can't beat the NBA's elite.

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade both missed potential game-winning shots in the final six seconds to help the Bulls escape on Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

James finished with 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists, Chris Bosh netted 23 points and Wade supplied 20 points, five assists and four rebounds but could not prevent the Heat's fourth straight loss.

Miami, which opened a six-game homestand against Chicago, is now a dismal 1-9 against the league's top five teams, including two losses to the Bulls as well as defeats to San Antonio and Boston over the last three weeks.

"There is nothing else we can do other than stay together and stay with this," Spoelstra said. "We need to have a stubbornness to keep on getting into these situations, and then have the resiliency to finally break through. We did enough things to give ourselves a chance to win but not enough. One of these days we will break through."

The Heat still possess the league's sixth-best record and are third in the Eastern Conference, however.

"At the end of the day, we're in a good position right now, in the Eastern Conference and in the whole league," James said. "We'll be all right."

The Blazers aren't one of the NBA's top teams but they have been playing well recently, kicking off a four-game road trip in Orlando on Monday by edging a Dwight Howard-less Magic team, 89-85.

Howard was suspended by the NBA for one game without pay for receiving his league-high 16th technical foul of the season in Friday's 89-81 loss to Chicago.

LaMarcus Aldridge led all scorers with 24 points and Andre Miller finished with 15 points and seven assists versus the Magic. Wesley Matthews chipped in 13 points and Gerald Wallace added nine points and 10 boards off the bench for the Trail Blazers, who have won six straight on the road for the first time since February 18-March 2, 2002.

Portland has also won three straight overall and is currently sixth in the Western Conference playoff hunt.

"We were able to get to the basket a little bit easier without having that big guy down there to block shots," Miller said of the absence of Howard.

Earlier in the day Tuesday the Blazers rewarded coach Nate McMillan with a two-year contract extension.

"With his NBA and USA Basketball track record, Nate has established himself as one of the premier minds in the game of basketball," said Portland GM Rich Cho. "What Nate has accomplished in the last few years is truly remarkable and getting his contract extended was a top priority for the franchise and me."

McMillan, 46, is currently in his sixth year with the Trail Blazers after signing with the team prior to the 2005-06 season. He has a 234-239 record with the Portland and is the third winningest coach in franchise history.

The Blazers have won three straight in south Florida but did lose a 107-100 overtime contest to the Heat in Rip City back on Jan. 9.

03/08 15:10:43 ET


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