You know the saying “Don’t be sad that it’s over, be happy that it happened”? The inverse of that saying applies to this Sunday matchup between the Portland Trail Blazers and Miami Heat. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Portland defense struggled as Damian Lillard put together a second-half hot streak that ultimately didn’t matter and Carmelo Anthony continued to post up and shoot under 40%. It didn’t help that CJ McCollum was out, but it still stings, especially with Jimmy Butler also absent.
Lillard led all scorers with 34 points along with 12 assists and three steals while Anfernee Simons scored 19 as well, 13 of those coming in the second half. Hassan Whiteside put up another double-double with 21 points and 18 rebounds, a triple-double if you count the boos raining down on him in his homecoming.
Miami sixth man Goran Dragic sliced and diced Portland for 29 points and 13 assists, Bam Adebayo had 20 points, eight rebounds and six blocks, and Meyers Leonard had 11 points and nine boards against his former team.
Oh boy, did this one start out ugly. The Blazers could not buy a bucket in the first quarter. They shot 32% from the field, including 12.5% from three. Instead of the zone defense the Heat opt for more often than most teams, Miami played man and consistently double-teamed Lillard on every pick and roll. Defensively, there wasn’t much Portland could do to stop Miami from taking and making threes. The Heat made 6-13 threes and shot 56.5% from the field overall. Miami’s two-man game — initiated usually by Kendrick Nunn and Dragic — gave the Blazers trouble, with even Meyers Leonard putting in back-to-back threes after missing his first attempt to help Miami jump to a big 31-19 lead after one.
Carmelo Anthony made a concerted effort to get shots up while Lillard sat out to start the second quarter, resorting to posting up Derrick Jones Jr. more often than not. Miami seemed totally fine with that, sticking with the man defense and quick-switching as Portland continued to struggle from the field. Miami kept making quick decisions in the pick and roll, with the combination of Dragic and Jones Jr. proving to be deadly against the Blazers. Jones Jr. and Bam Adebayo put some Blazers on some posters as Portland entered halftime down 65-46.
Believe it or not, Lillard gave Portland a little life in the third (What’s new?). With a little help from Simons, who got the start in the second half over Gary Trent Jr. and was on the receiving end of a Damian Lillard lob to start the quarter, the duo combined for 20 of the team’s 35 points. Even as they thrived, Miami proved to be too much and kept their lead going into the fourth. There was nothing Portland could do to stop Adebayo and Jones Jr. from destroying them on every screen and lob, with Nunn and Dragic orchestrating everything.
Lillard kept trying, but it didn’t matter. Mario Hezonja actually had some good moments, scoring Portland’s first six points, but it didn’t matter. Miami outpaced Portland and continued to attack their porous defense. Lobs galore rained down from Jones Jr. and Adebayo. Lillard responded with some more tough threes only for Miami to come up with points on the other end. Portland didn’t go down quietly, but as previously stated, it didn’t matter. Blazers lose 122-111.
Tonight was a textbook example of the Blazers needing anyone other than Lillard to create offense. With McCollum out with an illness, it became immediately obvious that this game was going to see a lot of tough Lillard shots and increasingly unnecessary Melo post-ups. Miami would live with Melo being Melo and made every shot an absolute chore for Lillard. Gary Trent Jr., who started in place of McCollum, was fairly easily taken out of the game. It was good that Anfernee Simons came to play in the second half, otherwise this one might have been even uglier.
Defense remains bad
It sure was a lot easier when Jordan McRae was the biggest problem for Portland. Miami was always going to be tough to guard from three, coming into the game second in the NBA in three-point percentage at 38%. They were even better than that tonight, taking advantage of Portland’s drop defense. With Dragic and Kendrick Nunn as the ball-handlers in the pick and roll they became monsters inside. Points in the paint came easy, with 28 points coming from inside in the first half, 56 in total. Miami shot 52% from the field and 41% from three.
The Blazers face another injury-affected roster on Tuesday when they travel to Toronto to take on the Raptors. Tip-off is at 4:00 PT.