Fri, 21 Sep 2018
68
Sacramento

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Just when the Miami Heat were gaining momentum in their bid to move up the ladder in the jockeying for Eastern Conference playoff seedings, the injury bug hit.

Guard Dwyane Wade will be missing and center Hassan Whiteside could join him on the sideline when the Heat (36-31) visit Moda Center on Monday night to face the steaming hot Portland Trail Blazers.

Wade sustained a strained left hamstring and exited the game early in the fourth quarter of Miami's 129-102 rout of Washington on Saturday. Whiteside suffered a strained left hip flexor during the shootaround and sat out the win over the Wizards.

Both made the trip to Portland, where the Heat will begin a three-game road trip that continues Wednesday at Sacramento and Friday in Los Angeles against the Lakers. But Wade has all but declared himself out of commission for the trip's opener.

"A strain is just like a little cramp," Wade told reporters after the game against Washington. "The next day, you'll feel if it's worse or the same. We'll have to see. But I won't be in the lineup against Portland, I can probably guarantee that."

Whiteside wasn't as definitive.

"With strains, it's pretty tricky," he said. "They can last a couple of days; they can go away. But I don't want to go out there and make it worse, and then it's something that's lingering for a month."

The Heat were gathering momentum, having won four of their last five games, including the romp past Wizards in their most one-sided victory of the season.

"Our energy was great at both ends of the court," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Our depth, and multiple guys being able to contribute, that's the strength of our team."

But that strength has been eroded, at least to start the Heat's current trip.

Portland (40-26) has been fortunate to face opponents with key players missing this month, including Minnesota (Jimmy Butler), Oklahoma City (Carmelo Anthony) and Golden State (Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala).

"We can't control who plays," Portland guard CJ McCollum said. "We can't control who we play against. We just show up and try to get wins."

The Blazers have done a nice job of that of late. They enter the game against Miami riding a league-best nine-game win streak, their longest since an 11-game run in November 2013. Portland has also won 15 of the last 16 at home, with only one loss there since Dec. 22.

"They're a dangerous team out west," Spoelstra said. "They have some continuity from the last couple of years. They seem to be gaining confidence. They know who they are. They have a couple of guys (McCollum and Damian Lillard) who can take over in close games.

"And they're very well-coached. Terry (Stotts) has done a really nice job with that team. He has developed a program that absolutely fits the strength of that team."

Stotts feigned ignorance of his team's win streak.

"What streak?" Stotts asked rhetorically. "We're just playing games. We're just trying to get wins. As close as the West (playoff race) is, you just have to keep getting wins.

"We're all very much aware of what the standings are. There's not a team in that group from three to 10 that has the luxury of getting too excited about anything, one way or the other.

"All eight of those teams are battling. There's not a lot of room to breathe."

In the past 11 games, Lillard is averaging 34.7 points and playing some of the best ball of his six-year career.

"I'm proud (of the win streak), but we've got to keep going," Lillard said. "Lately, there's been a different level of focus. It's more intense. There's a different level of excitement amongst our team.

"We win a game and we're moving on to the next one. That tells me we're not soaking in our success and being proud and patting ourselves on the back. We've been able to make this kind of run because of that."

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