The Portland Trail Blazers were unable to carry momentum from their offensive explosion earlier in the week into Wednesday’s meeting against the Miami Heat, falling 115-109 for their fifth loss in the last six games. Playing again without Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, the team slogged through a brutal first half before Anfernee Simons keyed a second half rally that ultimately fell short. Simons finished with a game-high 28 points, 20 of which came in the third quarter.
The Heat were also playing short-handed, missing stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, among others. They were red-hot from three all night, connecting at an impressive 46% clip. Max Strus led the way with 25 points, going 7-13 from beyond the arc and coming up clutch down the stretch to help Miami pull away with the victory.
For a quarter-by-quarter breakdown, see our Instant Recap.
Here were the key storylines from Wednesday’s game:
Heat Start, Finish Strong
The Heat got off to a tremendous on both ends of the floor, holding the Blazers to just 11 made field goals in the first half, while Strus and company took advantage of a lackluster Portland defense to connect on a number of open three-pointers. Despite Tyler Herro—who entered the night averaging 20 points—going just 1-10 in the opening half, Miami shot 55% from three, leading by as many as 19 in the second quarter. They also took advantage of crashing the glass, pulling down 14 offensive rebounds on the night.
However, their momentum was halted when point guard and team leader Kyle Lowry was ejected with 1:14 remaining in the half after picking up a highly questionable second technical foul. Lowry connected on just one shot, but had nine assists over his 16 minutes. He played a valuable role on both sides of the ball, as his counterpart Simons was held to just 1-4 shooting in the first half.
Miami figured things out in the fourth quarter, however, after Portland pulled even with them early in the frame. Leading by four with six minutes remaining, Strus connected on a trio of triples within a two-minute stretch to balloon the lead to 14 by the four-minute mark. A back-breaking, wide open three by Omer Yurtseven shortly after effectively put the game to bed. Portland made things interesting over the final minutes, but weren’t able to overcome the Strus eruption.
Ant Comes Alive in 3rd
The Blazer offense was dreadful in the first half. Held to just 11 made field goals, the team was able to stay afloat only because of a 20-26 effort from the free-throw line. Taking advantage of Lowry’s absence, Simons put the team on his back in the third quarter, going 7-10 from the field and connecting on five three-pointers. The Blazers outscored Miami 33-25 in the frame overall, after being held to 47 points in the first half.
In addition to Simons, Norman Powell also found something of a rhythm after shooting just 1-8 in the first half. He finished just shy of Simons’ mark with 26, buoyed by a 9-10 performance from the charity stripe.
Nance Exits Early
Larry Nance Jr. left the game late in the 3rd quarter, with what appeared to be a non-contact injury. He did not return to the game, and the team later confirmed that the injury was to his right knee. No further update was made available.
It’s worth noting the the team is extremely thin up front, as backup center Cody Zeller has been out since early December due to an injury of his own, and is currently unavailable due to health and safety protocols. Undrafted rookie Trendon Watford logged eight minutes of action, and would assumedly be in line for a bigger role in the event of a prolonged absence.
Sparks Fly Late
Things got interesting in the final minutes, after Jusuf Nurkic sent Herro crashing to the floor on a sturdy, but legal, screen, and lingered a bit to stare down the fallen Herro. The Heat guard hopped up to retaliate with a push in the back of Nurk, who responded with an open hand pop to Herro’s face. The cavalry from both teams stepped in to separate the duo, preventing any further fisticuffs. Both players were ejected. If Nurkic faces a suspension, it would only further decimate Portland’s battered front line.
Video of the altercation is available here.
The Blazers’ homestand continues as they host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night. The game is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. PT.