The Portland Trail Blazers came up short in a hard-fought battle against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night, being outscored 26-12 in the final quarter of a 104-92 defeat in South Beach. The Blazers got a terrific first half performance from their backcourt, as the duo of Anfernee Simons and CJ McCollum combined for 40 points by halftime, but the team faltered down the stretch.
Thanks to a stifling defensive effort in the fourth quarter and a clutch performance from Bam Adebayo, the Heat were able to secure the victory despite star Jimmy Butler being ejected from the game in the second quarter.
For a quarter-by-quarter breakdown, see our Instant Recap. Here were the key storylines from Wednesday night’s action.
In a scene reminiscent of the two teams’ meeting in Portland two weeks ago, when Kyle Lowry was ejected, Butler received the heave ho with 2:28 remaining in the first half of Wednesday’s game for getting in the face of an official following an and-one lay-up. The Heat were clearly frustrated from a questionable call on Adebayo just moments earlier, but Butler’s dismissal still came as a surprise.
Jimmy Butler picked up two quick technical fouls on this play and was ejected pic.twitter.com/5tVmRcEOco— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 20, 2022
Bam Slams the Door
The Heat entered the game without guards Lowry (personal) and Tyler Herro (health and safety protocols), so Butler’s ejection left Bam as the unquestioned alpha dog left on the floor. The big man answered the call with a terrific fourth quarter, scoring 10 of his 20 points in the frame to carry the offense while also playing a major role in the team’s amplified defensive blitz at the other end of the floor.
In addition to the 20 points, Adebayo stuffed the stat sheet with 11 rebounds, four assists, five steals and three blocks on the night. He did it while only committing just two fouls in 32 minutes and going a highly-efficient 8-12 from the floor.
Blazer Guards Shine Early
Simons and McCollum put on a show in the first half in Miami. Starting together for the first time in a while, the duo played off of each other beautifully, as each was able to reach the 20-point total by the half, when the Heat led by two. McCollum did the majority of his damage in the first quarter, while Simons got going in the second. The pair accounted for over 70% of Portland’s total offensive production in the half, with Robert Covington being the only other Blazer to connect on more than one shot.
They combined for just 11 points in the second half, however, and their teammates weren’t able to pick up the scoring slack. Jusuf Nurkic, after an extremely quiet first half in which he attempted just two shots, got going in the third quarter by getting involved in the screen-and-roll game. In doing so, he was able to draw Adebayo out of the paint and take advantage at the rim, finishing the game with 18 points on 6-10 shooting, in addition to 14 rebounds on the night. The Blazers badly needed someone else to step up, but the call went unanswered.
Bam closed the door, but the biggest difference in the game was the stark contrast in the teams’ depth. Caleb Martin proved to be a major difference maker off the Heat’s bench, leading the team with 26 points, joined in double-figure scoring by emerging Blazer-killer Max Strus (15 points, 4-8 from three), and back-up center Dewayne Dedmon (12 points, eight rebounds).
For Portland’s reserves, Trendon Watford had some nice moments in 20 minutes of action, pressed into extended duty with Nurkic in early foul trouble. However, Ben McLemore had a disastrous performance, going 0-7 from the field, and Dennis Smith Jr. was the only Blazer bench player to hit more than one shot, going 2-3 from the field. All told, the Heat second unit outscored their Portland counterparts 58-12.
Nassir Little did not play in the second half of Wednesday’s game due to what the team announced as an acute patellar tendinopathy/contusion in his right knee. His status will be worth monitoring in the coming days.
Portland’s road trip continues as they’ll head north to face the Boston Celtics on Friday night. The game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. PT at TD Garden.