In a Nutshell
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade do their worst but Portland responds with heroic efforts from Gerald Wallace, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Brandon Roy to out-Big-Three the Big Three. Andre Miller, Nicolas Batum, and Wesley Matthews also provide critical buckets as Portland's supporting cast outclasses Miami's counterparts in every aspect of the game.
As so often happens the Blazers announced their intentions in this game from the opening tip. Usually when we say that we're talking about jogging up the court or giving up offensive rebounds indicating a lethargic game forthcoming. This time we're talking about zippy passing on offense, sweet cuts down the lane, made jump shots, and a defense that never got down on itself even when a future Hall-of-Famer scored, rather poking away steals and grabbing rebounds with authority. When Nicolas Batum caught LeBron James napping on defense a couple times for easy scores you thought this might be a good game. When Andre Miller's jumper also started falling you knew it would be a great one. Portland didn't stop Miami (the Heat shot over 50% for the game) but they did limit them via forced turnovers and good rebounding. The Heat had one shot at scoring all night. The Heat had to get passes past Portland's rangy defenders to do that. In practice this meant their scoring came only from James and Wade one-on-one. Both superstars abused the Blazers from the get-go but without any help even 30+ from each wouldn't win the game. Exhibit A: Portland stayed even with Miami 25-25 after one. Miami wasn't going to overpower the Blazers. Could the Blazers overcome?
The answer to that came right away in the second period through the play of one Gerald Wallace. Miami's stars looked smooth but never dominating. Wallace didn't play smooth, he played rough. That means ripped-a-rebound-from-you rough. That means just-drove-on-your-lazy-butts-and-put-it-home-with-my-off-hand rough. That means just-swiped-your-alley-oop-pass and don't-even-THINK-about-putting-that-shot-up-over-me-Mike-Miller rough. Most guys block shots with their fingertips. Wallace was blocking them with his armpit tonight. Wallace amped up the turnover rate, ramped up the rebounding even more, and looked at LeBron James roughly the same way your grandma looks at a stain on her carpet. That's not to say he shut James down, but there was no deference there...LBJ was something to be sprayed and wiped up. Even worse for the Heat, guess who else showed up off the bench? If you said "#7 Brandon Roy, dawg" give yourself a cookie. Give yourself a big, old jumper-hitting, foul-drawing, three-point swishing cookie with victory frosting on top. Roy didn't look dominant as much as opportunistic. Case in point: You know how the Blazers have been begging for someone to hit an open three off of other player's penetration? 7:10 left, Blazers down 2, Rudy Fernandez makes a move and Roy is open. Rudy dishes Brandon the ball. WHOOP! There's your open triple. A minute later, same situation with Patty Mills. WHOOP-DEE-DOOP! There's another one! Roy had 11 points in the period. With LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, and Wallace doing a little clean-up work late the Blazers carried a 57-51 lead into the half.
In the third Miami came out determined to get their home court back from these usurpers, a steely look of menace on their south-Florida faces. Ha ha ha! Of course I'm kidding. These are the Heat. They thought they could pull it out in the fourth. Instead the Blazers outworked Miami for every loose ball and rebound. Wallace and Aldridge went heavy to the defensive glass especially. Aldridge also came alive on offense, pounding or shooting over whomever the Heat sent. Plus he was able to pass with effectiveness when Miami doubled him because (gasp!) the Blazers were hitting their jumpers tonight. Three things kept this from being a totally dominant quarter for Portland. First the Blazers turned over the ball too much. Second the Heat kept their offense rolling at the foul line. Third, in order to get everybody rested for the fourth quarter Coach McMillan played a lineup of Patty Mills, Rudy Fernadez, and Wesley Matthews at the end of the third. Each of those guys has had their consistency pictured on the side of a milk carton and tonight none of them were that on, especially when playing together. Portland's offense dried up at the end of the period and Miami made a mini-comeback, closing to 77-75 by the end of the third.
The story of the fourth was simple. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade tried to take over for Miami but Wade was the only effective player. 'Bron scored his points but took a lot of time and multiple possessions to do it. The rest of the Heat, on the outside looking in on offense, played like they were strangers on defense as well. Portland, meanwhile, played with cohesiveness and purpose. Wallace and Miller scored the bulk of Portland's points but Aldridge, Roy, Fernandez, and Matthews contributed. Miami didn't know where the score was coming from. Mostly they feared it was coming from Aldridge but the supporting cast proved them wrong. All credit goes to those veteran players who knew when their shot was coming and actually had the confidence to hit it. The rebounding prowess continued unabated too. The Blazers played like manly men and the Heat played like stars. In the end five or six manly men beat two stars and Portland walked away with a hard-fought but secure 105-96 victory.
Gerald Wallace, if loving you is wrong I don't want to be right. Aided and abetted by Miami's lack of centers, allowing him to play big minutes against like-sized people, Wallace showed exactly why the Blazers acquired him. He scored at the rim. He rebounded. He blocked shots. He was the spark that lit the fire for Portland tonight. His utter lack of intimidation in the face of the Heat is something all of the younger Blazers can learn from. He didn't play like he wanted these guys' autographs, he played like he wanted to carve their tombstone. Every minute Wallace was off the court you wished he would hurry and get back in. 8-14 shooting, 22 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, and a block.
LaMarcus Aldridge hit 11-20 shots for 26 points. He only had 4 rebounds but the team rebounded well around him. He was the third-quarter gasoline ignited by Wallace's spark. When he got grinding the Heat had no answer. Chris Bosh? 3-11, 7 points, 4 rebounds.
Brandon Roy hit 5-8 shots but more importantly 3-3 from distance. He helped spread the floor making the accomplishments of Wallace and Aldridge possible. He didn't look comfortable off of the dribble but he gave the Blazers exactly what they needed. 14 points in 23 minutes playing mostly off of the ball.
Andre Miller went 6-8 for 14 points with 5 assists. As is his wont, he shot early and attacked the rim late in this game but played incognito in the middle, feeding other guys. He's like the extra gun in the cowboy's boot for when the revolver is out of bullets. Think you got me? BAM! Guess not.
Nicolas Batum only played 22 minutes tonight but played some inspired ball on both ends early. He 4-5 for 11 points plus 4 rebounds. He didn't look that intimidated either. He made a great 1-2 forward punch with Wallace.
Wesley Matthews struggled intermittently but did hit 3-7 shots for 10 points and kept himself useful by dishing 5 assists. Whenever Matthews fills up multiple columns in the boxscore the Blazers have a better chance of winning. If it's 22, 0, and 0 for him he's not nearly as effective. His defense was occasionally brilliant, occasionally ineffective. He did hit a three late in the fourth to twist the dagger in.
Marcus Camby played 20 minutes and contributed 8 rebounds. He wasn't at his most useful against this opponent but the boards were sorely needed.
Rudy Fernandez played 21 minutes and was one of a couple Blazers to miss copious shots, going 1-6 for 3 points. He did have 2 assists and 2 steals.
Patty Mills went 1-5 in 15 minutes but tried to up the tempo a little and dished 4 assists.
Stats of the Night
- Heat 51.4% shooting, Blazers 50.6%. But between the forced turnovers and the good rebounding Portland attempted 7 more shots than Miami.
- Blazers 7-17 threes. Hallelujah!
- Blazers and Heat both attempt 19 free throws. Nice parity, reflecting Portland's aggressiveness.
Odd Notes and Links
Peninsula is Mightier doesn't feel that mighty right now, I'll wager.
Jersey Contest scoreboard and Charlotte game form.
Now some of you long-time readers go down to the preview thread and tell those foos what happens every time Dave gives Portland no chance to win in a big-game preview. Oh, and I see somebody's already gone crazy in the Fanposts too.