The Heat have been running out of luck. A four-game losing streak, including their recent loss against the Phoenix Suns, put them at sixth place in the Eastern Conference with a 22-22 record.
The Heat’s reported interest to make deals before the trade deadline have been taking a toll on some players, who are anxiously awaiting news about their fate for the rest of the season. The rumors have been draining the team so much that Bam Adebayo decided to talk about it in a postgame interview.
"Everybody knows it's business at the end of the day. I feel like there's a lot of dudes that are probably scrolling on social media,” he said. “There's probably a lot of extra weight than there should be."
For the month of March, production has noticeably gone down for the Heat. For example, Tyler Herro, who averaged 15.8 points and 4.8 assists before the All-Star break, dropped to 12.8 points and 2.9 assists per game. Only Jimmy Butler has been more productive after the break, which could signal that something’s going on with the team.
Whether it’s mental stress, physical fatigue, or any other obstacle, only the players and coaches know. But if the team wants to secure their position in the playoffs, they need to make adjustments quickly.
Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers have also been in a little funk lately.
CJ McCollum has yet to return to his old explosive form after missing 25 games due to a fractured foot. McCollum averaged 16.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.6 assists in his first five games back. These numbers are great, but they still pale in comparison to his career-high of 26.7 points alongside 3.9 rebounds and 5.0 assists prior to his injury.
Luckily for Portland, Damian Lillard remains a consistent contributor. But how long will Lillard have to carry this burden? Everyone can agree that McCollum’s high-level contributions are necessary if they want to get deep into the playoffs.
This game could potentially make or break both team’s chances of ranking up. With both sitting at No. 6, a win can help propel them to the top 5 for better chances of avoiding the play-in tournament.