The Heat survived a late surge from the Trail Blazers to escape with a 120-111 victory. Due to Miami’s relentless pace, Portland fell victim to a double-digit deficit in the first half. Damian Lillard kept the Blazers within range by recording another 40-point performance. Eventually Lillard’s efforts paid off in the form of a late-lead for Portland. Miami spoiled the miraculous rally with a sublime three-point shooting performance in the final two minutes.
Despite the lopsided scoreline for the majority of the game, the second half provided plenty of noteworthy moments for the Blazers. CJ McCollum recovered from a rough first half on offense, and Portland’s reserve big men contributed in crunch time.
Turn up the temperature
The Heat jumped on the Blazers early by pushing the pace. By being a step quicker on both ends of the court, Miami claimed an 11-point lead after the first quarter. The Heat swarmed the passing lanes on defense and forced the Blazers to rely on shots generated by isolation plays. Lillard still managed to finish the first half with 17 points, but the rest of his teammates failed to find their groove.
Dwyane Wade added to the Heat’s first half effort by generating 18 points on a near perfect 7-8 shooting performance. Miami built a double-digit lead through two quarters by pushing the pace and aggressively rotating on defense.
Heroic finish squandered
After trailing by double-digits for the majority of the contest, the Blazers rallied to reclaim the lead. Led by a combined 39 points from McCollum and Lillard in the second half, Portland nearly escaped Miami with a victory.
Outside of the dynamic play of the backcourt, coach Terry Stotts’ squad got back to basics after dealing with early jitters. As a team, the Blazers produced 8 assists and committed only 2 turnovers in the final 24 minutes of action.
Miami survived Portland’s late-game push thanks to some clutch three-point shooting. Buoyed by Goran Dragic’s two made shots, the Heat clinched the win with four three-pointers in the dying moments of the game.
Portland countered Miami’s collapsing defense by utilizing floor-spacing big men off its bench. Meyers Leonard and Zach Collins played a crucial role in the Blazers’ rally in the fourth quarter. After recording four blocks in the opening period, Hassan Whiteside added just two more through the remainder of the game. Whiteside was forced out of the paint in response to the outside shooting ability of Portland’s reserve big men.
Collins and Leonard combined for 18 points. Individually, Collins provided the Blazers with a steady hand at the free throw line. The second-year big man connected on all eight of his attempts.
Dame’s will to win
The Blazers’ offense was out of sorts for the majority of tonight’s contest, but Lillard’s determination kept the Heat within range. Lillard expertly created space for his midrange attempts, and finished at the rim as the rest of the offense stagnated.
It’s unfortunate that Portland was unable secure a win for both of Lillard’s 40-point outings. Despite the loss, Lillard has proven that he can keep the Blazers in games that walk the line of potential blowouts.
By the numbers
Evan Turner recovered from an assist-less first half to finish the game with three. Despite the slow start, Turner did the little things down the stretch for Portland. He recorded 8 points on a 3-10 shooting night.
Whiteside made things tough for Jusuf Nurkic on offense. The big fella didn’t leave the bench during the Blazers’ rally, and finished with just five points.
Al-Farouq Aminu’s streak of 15-rebound games was snapped in tonight’s loss. Due to his perimeter defense duties, Aminu struggled to make a dent in the boxscore. He nabbed just two rebounds in the loss.
The Blazers will return to action when they face the Pacers on Monday.
—Steve / @SteveDHoops / BEdgeSteve@gmail.com