After a very bitter loss to the Utah Jazz, the Portland Trail Blazers bounced back against the Miami Heat 115-109. Damian Lillard led the scoring with 33 points and eight assists, while Trevor Ariza contributed 21 points, five assists, and three steals, and Hassan Whiteside tipped in 11 points, 17 rebounds, and four blocks, a double-double. Gary Trent Jr. made an impression off the bench with 22 points and four steals. Mario Hezonja left the game with an ankle injury in the first half and did not return.
The Portland Trail Blazers opened up with the first basket of the game as Trevor Ariza scored two. Ariza made his mark during the first quarter, scoring the team’s first eight points. Duncan Robinson of the Miami Heat clapped back with a pair of threes, but Carmelo Anthony had something to say about that before Robinson responded again. Lillard came back with a three, only to have Bam Adebayo score on a driving dunk. Multiple fouls defined the first quarter. Damian Lillard lined up a three, followed by a steal by Ariza that led to a monumental dunk that put the Blazers up by nine. Goran Dragic attempted to fight back, and a sequence of fouls on the Heat player allowed Miami to close within four points. Ariza widened the lead with a shot from three. Jae Crowder made a three to put the Heat down by only two at the end of the first.
The first stretch of the second quarter proved fruitless for the two teams, as the game remained scoreless until Jae Crowder hit a three to take the lead. Meanwhile, Mario Hezonja left the floor with a sprained ankle. The Blazers fought back, and the two teams swapped baskets until the Blazers took the lead off of an Ariza three. A driving layup by Kendrick Nunn tied the game. Hassan Whiteside sent Bam Adebayo to the line, but he only made one, and Ariza came back with a dunk. A three-pointer from Gary Trent Jr. and a free throw gave the Blazers a five-point lead. Jae Crowder responded with two, but Trent Jr. came back with a three, and Nunn added another three for Miami. The Blazers ended the half with a three point lead over the Heat 63-60.
The Blazers started off the second half with Damian Lillard burying a deep two. Nunn answered. Carmelo Anthony bought the Blazers some momentary breathing room with a three off of a Lillard assist, only to have Kelly Olynyk respond. Offsetting offensive fouls gave Lillard the opportunity to score three, giving the Blazers a 71-65 lead. While Miami’s Derrick Jones Jr. contributed a dunk, both McCollum and Lillard scored for the Blazers. The two teams traded buckets, but the Heat found it difficult to keep up, and the Blazers pulled ahead by 12. Miami scored two in response, until Lillard silenced them from three, prompting the Heat to take a timeout due to an 18-8 Blazers’ run. Jae Crowder and Goran Dragic mounted an offensive effort for the Heat, pulling them within six. Dragic, taking a three following an offensive rebound, made contact with Lillard, but the initial call was on Lillard, leading to a successful challenge by Coach Terry Stotts. Lillard went to the line with .9 left, closing out the third 93-83.
Kicking off the fourth, Andre Iguodala connected with Chris Silva for the alley-oop. On the next play, an offensive rebound by Iguodala led to a three-pointer by Robinson. Eventually, CJ McCollum answered, and both teams went scoreless for a long stretch before Crowder and Lillard traded threes. Iguodala, in his first game back, managed a layup. The referees assessed Carmelo Anthony a technical foul, and after sinking the free throw by Robinson and following up with a three by Dragic, the Heat pulled within two. However, Trent Jr. responded with a three of his own, followed by Damian Lillard with the and-one, putting the game at 105-97 with 4:43 remaining. A three from Crowder and another from Dragic had the Heat closing in again, and what was called an offensive charge gave the Heat a chance, but they failed to capitalize. Trent Jr. drained a corner three in front of the Heat bench just shy of the two minute mark. A three from Dragic brought the Heat within five, and Miami challenged a foul call on Jae Crowder with less than a minute remaining, successfully giving the ball to Miami and the opportunity to close the gap to three. A drive up the lane by Lillard bought the Blazers room to maneuver, and the next possession by the Heat gave them three fruitless opportunities. Finally, Hassan Whiteside came down with the board and headed to the line, where he scored two. Following a timeout by the Heat, Miami was unable to make up the difference, and the Blazers closed out the win 115-109.
Team effort. The Blazers had five players in double figures by the end of the third, and at the end of the game, six Blazers had double figures, including all of the starters. Off the bench, Gary Trent Jr. led with 22 points, including 5-7 from three. Lillard led all scorers with 33, but Trevor Ariza tipped in 21. Given the number of times Lillard has put this team on his back so far this season—and we’re not even to the All-Star break—it was excellent to see other players step up on offense and defense.
Gary Trent Jr. There’s no two ways around it: he’s on fire. His contributions on offense and defense have made a clear difference in recent games for the Blazers. His three in front of the Miami bench added a needed bit of drama when it felt like the Heat might pull ahead. It seemed to knock the wind out of Miami’s offense, putting them back on their heels—a remarkable feat for the Blazers sophomore. The only question remains: is this current streak sustainable for the youngster?
Congratulations, Terry Stotts. Coach Stotts joined elite company among NBA coaches in logging 350 career wins with their current team. Only three other coaches have that honor, including the opponent Erik Spoelstra. The other two coaches are Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs and Rick Carlisle of the Dallas Mavericks, whom Stotts coached under during the Mavericks’ title run.