Portland (36-27) at Miami (43-20)

By BRETT HUSTON, STATS Senior Writer Tuesday, Mar 8, 2011 Tipoff: 7:30 pm EST Tue Mar 8, 2011

Within hours of LeBron James(notes), Dwyane Wade(notes) and Chris Bosh(notes) joining forces in Miami, Wade dubbed the trio one of the best to ever play the game and James initiated talk of the Heat winning seven championships.

There’s little cause for celebration in South Beach these days.

Four consecutive losses - including a particularly emotional defeat over the weekend - have the pressure mounting for the Southeast Division leaders, who could have their hands full again with Tuesday night’s visit from the surging Portland Trail Blazers.

Bold statements were made by James and Wade during a July welcome party that had all the looks of a championship coronation, but the Heat (43-20) haven’t exactly lived up to their own lofty expectations.

That’s been especially true of late. Miami has dropped six straight to teams with winning records and four in a row overall, with Sunday’s 87-86 loss to Chicago leaving coach Erik Spoelstra’s team especially miserable. Spoelstra claimed in his postgame press conference there were “a couple guys crying in the locker room” after James and Wade both missed chances to win the game in the final 10 seconds.

“The Miami Heat are (doing) exactly what everyone wanted, losing games,” Wade said. “The world is better now because the Heat is losing.”

James and Wade’s misses dropped the Heat to an NBA-worst 1 for 16 with a chance to tie or take the lead in the final 10 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime.

Yet, Miami still has the NBA’s sixth-best record and is third in the Eastern Conference. But the Heat are just 3-9 against above-.500 teams since January and are a combined 1-9 this season against the five teams that own better records.

“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 get a win, we’ll be all right.”

To hear Wade tell it, Miami seems to be shifting its own self-image from an unstoppable force to an underdog.

“We’re a team that no one wants to see in the first round,” said Wade, who’s been held to 19.8 points per game during the losing streak. “We lose every game from here on out, somebody’s got to see us in the first round. And the Miami Heat isn’t really a team you want to see in the first round.”

No one in the West might want to see Portland (36-27) if it keeps playing like it has over the past month. The Trail Blazers have won 10 of 13, picking up their third straight victory 89-85 at Orlando on Monday.

Portland caught a big break as the Magic played without the suspended Dwight Howard(notes). Considering his absence, coach Nate McMillan wasn’t exactly jumping for joy over the narrow victory.

“It’s about us,” McMillan said. “We have to challenge ourselves each night to come out and play hard and play a good game. And we’re going to have to play better to win than we did tonight.”

Portland shot just 41.8 percent against Miami at the Rose Garden on Jan. 9, but still nearly escaped with a win thanks to 31 points and 14 rebounds from LaMarcus Aldridge(notes).

But James and Wade delivered perhaps their best combined effort as teammates. James had 44 points and 13 rebounds while Wade added 34 points in a 107-100 overtime victory.

James has averaged 34.1 points in seven games - all wins - against Portland since 2007-08, his best versus any opponent.

The Blazers have won their last three visits to Miami.

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Tuesday, Mar 8