In a Nutshell
The Blazers use daring dribbling, poetic passing, and shining shooting to take Miami to the wire in this game, but in the end the Heat's video-game like individual prowess gave them one score too many for Portland to overcome in regulation despite the Blazers having two looks in the final possesion. Having been down this road before, the Heat know how to handle the Blazers when the game is on the line. Portland folds like origami in the extra period and it becomes a war story for Portland's fans and just another night for Miami's.
The game started out ugly and fast, with both teams committing major turnovers and each running off of the other's mistakes. Dwyane Wade was a major handful for the Blazers as Wesley Matthews proved unable to keep up with him. Wade scored 15 of Miami's first 19 points. Meanwhile Nicolas Batum feasted on turnovers and an Aldridge-centric defense to score 9 in the first, keeping Portland close. When the game slowed to the halfcourt the Heat forged ahead but Portland played around with zone defenses and cut back Miami's scoring to pull nearly even after one, 27-26, Miami.
The biggest facet of the second period was 9-0 runs traded between the teams. Wade and Chris Bosh keyed Miami's early in the period as Portland's second unit faltered on both ends. Batum and Aldridge brought the Blazers back after the Heat got comfortable and started shooting long. When the horn sounded with the Blazers down only 2, Portland fans started to get excited. This was going to be a game.
The third period saw the Blazers take an early lead behind LaMarcus Aldridge's dominant offense. LMA scored 8 points in the first 4:30, contributing the bigger part of what would become a 6-point lead. Portland's confidence seemed to buoy after getting ahead. Their defensive pressure and rebounding ramped up. Meanwhile the Heat looked almost too loose. Having your power forward travel while trying to set up his own three-pointer isn't exactly highlighted in the NBA style manual. If they couldn't get on the break Miami seemed content to hoist the first good shot they saw in a given possession...shots which Portland rebounded and converted into simpler points via quick passing. The Blazers did not commit a single team foul in the period. Only a late rally by LeBron James and a final-possession James Jones three kept the Heat within 2, as Portland led 67-65 after three.
The fourth quarter was a donnybrook, one of the more inspirational Portland efforts of the year. Patty Mills, heretofore woeful, started connecting and his game took off to the stratosphere. He scored 7 points in the first 4 minutes and even got busy with some speedy defense. When Wesley Matthews hit an uber-rare three to put the Blazers up 7 with 2:13 remaining the Miami announcers, to this point rather casual about any potential peril, finally seriously speculated that the Heat could lose this game. At that juncture you knew the Blazers were playing well. Sadly that commotion in the Miami huddle was Coach Erik Spoelstra inputting the damn cheat code on LeBron James. The King would score 7 of the Heat's last 11 points, competing a run in which he scored 11 of their 15 overall. The only shots he missed in the period were a couple of free throws. The Blazers held their own, though, behind an Aldridge-led offense. They went to Aldridge in the block consistently. Anyone who doubts his maturation this year should look at the last three minutes of this game. When he wasn't scoring he was making exactly the right pass at exactly the right time. Sadly his teammates couldn't hit their opportunities, letting Portland's lead evaporate. The Blazers had the ball for the last 24 seconds of a tied game. They inserted Andre Miller for Patrick Mills and Rudy Fernandez for Marcus Camby, dribbled down the clock, and then watched Miller miss a pair of mid-range jumpers, the second as the horn sounded. The game was knotted at 93 and going into overtime.
As soon as the OT tip went up the Heat said [word you can't say on Blazersedge] this and started dominating the game. They hit the first two shots they put up and never looked back. The Blazers started the session with 2 misses and 2 turnovers and never recovered. James again proved a monster for Miami with Wade and Bosh chipping in. Outside of a short Nicolas Batum jumper Aldridge was the only Blazer to score in extended minutes. Three Heat superstars beat two Blazer forwards by 7 points in an anti-climactic finish. Miami 107, Portland 100.
Besides Aldridge's overall floor game and a couple more individual outings discussed below, the biggest development in this game was how the Blazers refused to take crap. After getting tattooed by Wade early Portland locked down defensively and on the boards, not letting their copious use of zones affect their ability to retrieve the ball. They never stopped trying to force turnovers and never stopped running when they got them. The Blazers also played directly and confidently on offense, especially with their passes and cuts. And when it came time to foul in the fourth, Portland didn't mess around. If a Heat player drove, that Heat player got busted to the ground hard. That physicality--in the overall defense and in fouling--has been a missing ingredient for this team for years. Ultimately the Heat made impossible shots look possible and possible shots look routine. That's their gig. But the Blazers didn't bow to them for lack of trying. They made Miami take them seriously. They even made Miami mad for a while. For this team that's an accomplishment. It's also pretty much what they'll need to do when and if they make the playoffs.
You can't say enough about LaMarcus Aldridge tonight. He left everyone in awe. He was truly the center of the offense without dominating the ball unduly or stopping play in any way. He shot 12-23 for 31 points but even more impressive were his 14 rebounds and 7 assists. He was the guy the Heat keyed on as the game got tougher for them and he didn't let it faze him a bit. Considering the opponent and the spotlight, this may have been his best all-around game as a pro.
Nicolas Batum also rose to the occasion, scoring early and often and playing some fine defense early. He went 9-16 for 22 points. The blemish on his record would be the 1-5 shooting from distance. Portland fans will remember a ridiculously sweet block of James in the first period that set the tone for the night.
Wes Money looked more like chump change tonight. His defense was ineffective early. His three point shooting was abysmal throughout the game, as he finished 2-10 from the arc and 6-20 overall for 14 points. Many of those shots were wide open too. The bright spot was 5 assists. I've noticed that Matthews needs to warm up to a situation before he looks comfortable in it and he appeared to be in warm-up mode in this game, perhaps knowing against whom he was playing. I'll be interested to see how he fares in the return match in March.
Marcus Camby had 14 rebounds in 37 minutes and did his usual Camby stuff.
Andre Miller had 7 assists but shot 2-9, went iso in the third, and missed the final shots in regulation, finishing the game with 6 points.
Patty Mills had the best game off the bench, playing huge tracts in the fourth quarter and scoring repeatedly. He went 5-10 for 13 points with 2 assists. He looked fearless against the Heat, a crowd- and confidence-inspiring trait. He ended up hitting only 1-5 from distance.
Rudy Fernandez drew 6 foul shots in 18 minutes as he tried to get aggressive. He didn't get to handle the ball enough and didn't poke away enough steals to make this a truly Rudy-esque game, though he obviously had the spirit. He finished with 8 points and 3 rebounds.
Dante Cunningham went 1-4 with a steal and 2 points in 14 minutes.
Joel Przybilla played 9 minutes and got a rebound, a turnover, a foul, and 2 points charged to his credit.
Stats of the Night
- Blazers 5-24 from distance. One hit changes the outcome of the game. This was not supposed to be a Portland weakness this year.
- Heat 23 fast break points, way more than Portland usually allows.
- Miami shoots 57% in a game they could have lost.
- (sigh) LBJ 17-26 for 44 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists. Dwyane Wade 15-22 for 34, 8, and 5
Odd Notes and Links
It used to be that non-American players were typified as soft and poor defensively. This game was an argument for the stereotype to change to "Not intimidated by anyone they play." Batum, Mills, and Fernandez had no respect for Miami's status and played this game loosely and for the most part well.
Also, no need to be heartbroken about this game. The Blazers played basketball as well as we've seen all season. It was, for the most part, a beautiful sight.
Here lies your boxscore.
See the story of yet another team vanquished in overtime at Peninsula is Mightier.