The Portland Trail Blazers were unable to keep their early season magic alive on Wednesday night, falling at home to the Miami Heat by a final score of 119-98 for their first loss of the year. The Blazers jumped out to a stellar start in the contest, but were unable to carry their momentum to halftime, ultimately getting blown out in the second half.
Damian Lillard led all scorers in the game with 22 points, but exited midway through the third quarter with a calf strain and did not return. The Heat had a balanced offensive attack, with six players scoring 14 or more points. Bam Adebayo led the way with 18.
For a quarter-by-quarter blow of the action, see our Instant Recap. Here were the key storylines from Wednesday’s game.
The Blazers looked sharp at both ends of the floor to begin the game. The offense featured excellent ball movement, while the defense made every rotation, sprinkling in a few zone sets to keep the Heat offense from getting anything going. Josh Hart in particular had his fingerprints all over the opening quarter—on both ends of the floor. His unique ability to create for himself, and also play the role of facilitator, was on full display.
Portland was in control for much of the first half. Despite a lapse to close the first quarter, they were the aggressor for the majority of the first quarter and-a-half. With the notable exception of their outside shooting, just about everything was going their way to start the night. More importantly, it was a multi-faceted attack that got everyone involved.
Miami’s offense sputtered out of the gate, in large part due to a focused defensive effort from the Blazers. However, from the midway point of the second quarter on, it finally started clicking. While Portland struggled from distance, the Heat hung around mostly with the long ball. Max Strus proved to be a spark plug off the bench, scoring 13 of his 16 points in the opening half and knocking down three three-pointers.
The Blazers offense stalled midway through the second quarter, hitting just one field goal over the final 5:30 of the period. The Heat took advantage, seizing momentum of the game to take a five-point lead into the halftime break.
Miami never let up on that momentum in the second half. They were red-hot from three, led by the likes of Tyler Herro and Kyle Lowry. The Blazers exasperated this by committed six turnovers in the quarter—with four of them leading directly to Heat points on the other end of the floor. Caleb Martin was particularly pesky defensively, with four steals on his own. All told, Miami shot just shy of 40% from three and took advantage of 19 Blazer turnovers—most of them the result of poor passing.
Lillard lead the team in scoring despite going just 6-13 from the field and being limited to 26 minutes. 16 of his 22 points came in the first half. He left due to injury with 5:10 remaining in the third quarter, and any hope of another comeback quickly evaporated. No one was able to fill the void in Lillard’s absence. The most likely candidate, Anfernee Simons, finished 5-12 from the field with 14 points. Jerami Grant was 4-10 with 11 points, and Jusuf Nurkic was a virtual non-factor scoring wise—going 2-7 for seven points.
The most effective option after Lillard proved to be rookie Shaedon Sharpe, who scored 15 points off the bench on 5-12 shooting over 21 minutes. However, no one stepped up to be the go-to guy, and the Blazers offense looked out of sync as a result. Coupled with Miami’s hot shooting, there was never an opportunity to get back in the game.
Portland’s homestand continues Friday night against the rebuilding Houston Rockets. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. PT, and the game will air on ROOT Sports.