The Portland Trail Blazers' pattern continued, as their strong play was negated by a poorly-played fourth quarter, along with struggles against strong front-courts, in a stinging loss to the Miami Heat. The loss leaves Portland 0-3 on their five-game road trip.
The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard's 32 points and 9 assists, and CJ McCollum's 20 points and 6 assists. Al-Farouq Aminu (16 points) had a great first half..
Lillard favored his ankle strongly late in the fourth quarter, and McCollum tweaked his ankle as well. By the end of the game, both were hobbling. They both stayed on the court, but their status for Monday's game is unknown, and we'll have more info when it comes available.
Despite the early start, the Blazers looked ready from the opening tip. The first half had a noticeable style: The Blazers would build a small lead, the Heat would cut into it, and the Blazers would restore order. The Heat were focused on the Blazer guards, but they didn't keep track of Aminu, whose 16 first-half points left the Heat scrambling to cover everyone.
Portland jumped out to a 7-2 lead, but Miami got hot from downtown. Chris Bosh and Luol Deng combined for three three-pointers in 50 seconds to put Miami ahead. Lillard and McCollum kept the game in a back-and-forth battle through most of the first quarter, as the game was tied at 22. Then Portland took control. Meyers Leonard swished two three-pointers, and Lillard did the rest. The Blazers went on a 12-1 run to pull ahead 35-23 to open the second quarter.
Then the Heat took their turn. The Blazers went into turnover mode, giving Miami repeatedly opportunities. They took advantage through the first half of the second quarter, going on a 10-2 run and eventually tying the game at 43. The Blazers had enough, brought in the starters and took control. Aminu, a force throughout, hit three three-pointers, and even Mason Plumlee hit four consecutive free throws. Miami went cold, and Portland headed to the locker room with a 10 point lead.
Halftime: Portland 66, Miami 56
Miami had their turn as the second half opened. They outscored Portland 13-3 to quickly pull into a tie. The teams played back and forth for most of the second half, until the Blazers' achilles heel arrived: The last 6 minutes of the fourth quarter. In a tie game, Miami hit consecutive three-pointers-- one of them a miracle against the short clock-- to take a 6 point lead. Portland gave up an offensive rebound, and Miami built the lead to 7. But a McCollum three-pointer cut the deficit to 4 with three minutes left. One minute later, Portland found nothing on offense, and the Heat's big guys pushed their lead to 8. Portland cut it to 4, and had the ball with one minute left, and dribbled it on the baseline for a turnover. Miami responded with a Wade-to-Whiteside alley-oop for an easy two points to put the game away.
No rest for the weary. The Blazers travel to Atlanta, where they play tomorrow evening at 5pm Pacific time. But stay tuned today, plenty of updates to come from Blazer's Edge, including Dave Deckard's analysis of this morning's game.