The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Miami Heat 110-107 on Monday in an exemplary show of resilience. Thanks to an energized, refocused defense in the third and fourth quarters, Portland was able to do away with as much as a 15-point lead, en route to a comeback win. They capitalized off of the absence of Tyler Herro, while holding all Heat players to 16 points or fewer. A buzzer-beating corner 3 from Josh Hart iced Miami, and silenced a South Beach crowd that just moments ago, got their spirit back after a Max Strus 3 tied it late. Yet another win in the books for the Blazers has continued a Cinderella run to bring home a 7-3 report card, worthy of praise, and not proverbial grounding.
This game would’ve been a shame to miss, considering the late push that was made. No matter, we have you covered if that was the case. Our quarter-by-quarter recap can be found here.
Presented to you now: a half-dozen carton of Easter eggs from tonight’s game, that sheds more light on why things happened the way they did.
Play Up Portland!
The Blazers didn’t do their job on defense in the first half. Their complacency guarding the 3-point line could not be shaken. They broke the cardinal rule of not stopping the ball in transition, leading to two easy Gabe Vincent bombs from deep in the first, as well as a Kyle Lowry trey later on. Portland also did not get up in the grill of the opposing wing players when past 23 feet, as warned about in our Blazers Edge preview earlier today. Duncan Robinson and Lowry excelled in that area, combining for six of Miami’s threes in the half. Their 10 collective triples were the most the team had hit all season in a single half, and it came with over three minutes to spare in the second. Even more blood could have been spilled but Head Coach Chauncey Billups remedied the cause by having his players zealously contest, leading to missed shots, and a couple of near fouls.
Bam Adebayo might as well have changed his name to Felix the Cat in the first half, because he was all up in his bag during that stretch. When Miami needed a mid-range shot off the dribble, Bam had it for them. When the Heat needed a face-up jumper to keep momentum going, Bam was their guy. Did Erik Spoelstra call for a pick-and-roll? He sure did. Many times at that. And Bam found a way to duck inside for easy buckets. Adebayo also found success in the passing lanes, connecting with a wide open cutter for an easy deuce. Someone should write a letter to Emeril Laggase persuading him to give the Heat’s PA announcer a personal soundbite of his patented, “Bam!” Just for number 13. As rock-solid as he was offensively in the beginning of the game, he didn’t meet his production standards halfway down the stretch, scoring only six points and dialing in two assists in the final two quarters of play.
Game of Zones
What the Blazers failed to do in the 24 minutes prior to halftime is exactly what they capitalized off of in the 24 minutes after. Their 2-3 zone was executed to perfection, where Drew Eubanks was a menace in the middle. They fixed their problem of contesting, by shifting their defense up in the high screen-and-roll and other sets. This is the first time they’ve exhibited such great defense this season against the 3 up until this point, and a secret recipe for success was discovered. A 15-point lead was cut down, so much so that the Blazers tied the game with over two minutes to go. A testament to the reinvigorated defense was, with three minutes to go, Max Strus attempted a 30-footer. His defender, Anfernee Simons, was right up on him, forcing the miss. It was a direct example of what coach Billups probably preached in the huddle before the teams came out for the second half. A trickle down effect took effect once Portland transitioned into man defense, and sparked their eventual game-winning run.
On the other end, Miami’s zone in the first half was highly effective. Bam Adebayo was containing every attempt at the rim inside, and forcing the Blazers to shoot from deep, where they surprisingly had success. That was the only thing outside of Jerami Grant’s heroics that kept them in the game.
In their first matchup, Jimmy Butler had three or so fast break dunks in a 10-minute span that helped blow the doors open on the game. Fast forward to today, and Butler had three steals that led to fast break buckets, to help extend Miami’s lead. Butler had six takeaways on the game, tying a season-high. Reason being? Portland got lazy with their passes. They did not move the ball with vigor. When Butler was deceptively lurking in the passing lanes, the Blazers did not learn from their mistakes, and underestimated his cunning.
Sharing is Caring
Seven players in double figures for the Heat was a season-high. Lowry played unselfishly, and he and Vincent took care of their shooters, leaving their two stars ample opportunity to get theirs as well. Nothing more to it than that.
Simons Comes Through
Simons says, erase a double-digit deficit to win the game. Simons says, help get Jerami Grant rolling again after a monster start to the game. Simons says, let it fly from deep. Simons says, give Justise Winslow some time at the point and let him contribute to your comeback. Simons and Lillard were major catalysts in Rip City ripping the heart out of the FTX Arena. They did what was said, and let it fly from deep. With the barrage of long shots that Miami made throughout the game, it was their fearlessness from the 3 that kept them close. They ended up winning the 3-point battle 16-14, and shot a great 43.2 percent from the arc. Jerami Grant had two triples from the right corner that made the game close, and was aggressive inside over the duration of the contest. At the end of the third leading into the fourth, Justise Winslow was the point guard while Dame was out. Winslow kept up a good pace and handled the ball with precision. He had a couple of buckets inside that, while seeming small, accomplished exactly what an “other,” – as Shaq calls them – is meant to do. An amalgamation of all these factors, both great and small, led to the victory.
The Blazers got their revenge, and on the road too. Now they will enjoy a day off before setting their sights on the Charlotte Hornets, whom they play in the fourth game of their six-game road trip, on Wednesday evening, at 4:00 p.m. PT.