MIAMI — The Portland Trail Blazers fell to 45-26 on the season and 19-17 on the road with a 93-91 loss to the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena Monday night. With the win, the Heat get a sweep of the two-game season series while handing the Blazers their second-straight loss.
“I was proud of the way we competed and got back into the game,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “It was a frustrating night from the offensive standpoint, didn’t shoot the ball particularly well. But we made shots at the end to kind of get us back into it.”
After trailing by 17 in the fourth quarter, the Trail Blazers made a furious comeback to tie the game at 91-91 after Mo Williams hit two free throws with 30 seconds to play.
After a Miami timeout, LeBron James drove with 11 seconds to play and finished above the outstretched arms of Robin Lopez to put the Heat up by two.
Rather than calling a timeout after the go-ahead basket, the Trail Blazers push the ball up the court in hopes of catching the Heat off guard on defense.
“Make or miss, we were going to go,” said Stotts of the team’s plan on their final offensive possession. “We had been scoring in flow. I just wanted to push it up and create something like we did in the previous possessions.”
The plan nearly worked, as Damian Lillard had a good look at a the rim for a potential game-tying layin, but Miami power forward Chris Bosh, who hit a game-winning three-pointer in the first meeting between the two teams this season, was able to rotate to Lillard and block the shot with two seconds to play, effectively ending the game.
“I got a good look,” said Lillard. “I got past (Heat guard Norris Cole), got to the rim. I tried to float it over the top of Bosh. I really thought it was going to get over him. He met it pretty high up there and made a good
While it’s easy to pin the loss on Portland’s final offensive possession, their inability to hit open three-pointers and take care of the ball proved more costly than anything that took place in the waning moments of the game. The Trail Blazers shot 11 of 39 from three and turned the ball over 15 times, which resulted in 21 points for the Heat.
“It gave them fuel, gave them momentum and those are points you can’t get back,” said Wesley Matthews, who finished the game with 15 points on 6 of 15 shooting. “It’s one thing if you turn the ball over and you can get back on defense and get a stop, but our turnovers led to LeBron dunks. You can’t get those points back.”
The Trail Blazers got off to a much better start Monday than they did in their opening game of their second five-game road trip Saturday night in Charlotte. Portland held Miami to 39 percent shooting in the quarter, won the rebounding battle 15-8 and out-scored the Heat 7 to 6 in transition. The result was Portland owning a 25-22 lead at the end of the first quarter.
But even with the lead, Portland’s issues taking care of the ball were evident early. They turned the ball over seven times in the first 12 minutes, leading to 12 of Miami’s 22 first-quarter points.
“We made a lot of turnovers early on that otherwise would have made it a much more competitive match,” said Lopez. “Whether it was the guards or myself on the other end of the pass. There were a lot of factors. A lot of easy mistakes.”
Portland turned the ball over four more times in the second quarter, and while the Heat didn’t turn any of those giveaways into points, the miscues robbed the Trail Blazers of possessions they would end up needing in what ended up being a one possession game.
“Turnovers in the first half hurt us,” said Stotts. “I don’t think we had a turnover in the fourth quarter. They didn’t get any fastbreak points in the second half. That was big.”
Portland, as Stotts pointed out, cleaned up their turnovers in the second half, but their shooting, particularly from deep, remained an issue until late in the fourth quarter. They shot just 2 of 8 from three in the third quarter and 6 of 16 from the field, which helped the Heat build a double-digit lead going into the fourth.
The Heat would extend their lead to 17 after Chris Anderson hit two free throws with 10:30 to play in regulation. But the Trail Blazers refused to go down quietly, going on a 9-0 run to cut the lead to nine. Miami would push the led back to double-digits, but Portland would again respond by finishing the game on a 13-4 run, though they would eventually come up short for yet another close loss.
“We’ve got to make it turn,” said Lillard of Portland’s difficulty winning close games as of late. “That last push that we had, maybe we need that to start a little earlier. Instead of the five, four minute mark it starts at the eight minutes. And then at three minutes it’s more of a game how it was at the end, tie game, two-point lead for us, two-point lead for them or whatever. We got a lot of stop in a row and then they scored. We played good defense but LeBron made a big play, Bosh made a big play.”
Portland was led by Lillard, who shot just 3 of 15 from the field but made 12 of 14 free throws to end the game with 19 points in 40 minutes. Nicolas Batum also played 40 minutes and ended up with a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds. Lopez pitched in 10 points and eight rebounds and Williams scored 17 points off the bench.
The Heat were led by James, who did most everything to finish with a game-high 32 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals. Greg Oden, playing against the Blazers for the first time, played scored four points and three rebounds.
Next up, the Trail Blazers travel to Orlando for the second game of a back-to-back against the Magic. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 PM.
Greetings podcast enthusiasts. Between CJ McCollum getting an extension and Moe Harkless signing a new deal, Portland’s roster for the start of the 2016-17 regular season is all but finalized. So it seemed like a good time to hit the studio with Joe Freeman of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com to record yet another edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
On this edition, we discuss the near-max extension for McCollum and the four-year, roughly $40 million contract for Harkless, which directions Terry Stotts might go in terms of starting lineups and minutes allocations, the news that both Al-Farouq Aminu and Festus Ezeli will forego playing for Nigeria at the 2016 Summer Olympics, give a quick rundown of the preseason schedule and answer your Twitter-submitted questions.
Last weekend, Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum and his older brother, Errick, were guests on ESPN’s SportsCenter to discuss, amongst other things, The Basketball Tournament, which is billed as a “open application, 5-on-5, single-elimination, winner-take-all basketball tournament” in which the winning team takes home $2 million in prize money. Errick’s team, Overseas Elite, won the tournament last year and are in the finals, which airs Tuesday at 4 PM Pacific on ESPN, again this year.
But the tournament wasn’t the only topic of conversation, as any time you get two brothers together, you’re contractually obligated to ask them which is mom’s favorite. One one had, CJ still lives with his mom, so you might assume he’s the got the No. 1 son ranking sewn up, but it sounds like Errick was the much better behaved child and mom’s tend to have long memories, so it sounds like it’s a bit of a tossup.
“CJ, he was a good kid,” said Errick, “he just liked to get into things. He was really physical. She couldn’t take him around any other kids or he would, like, get into little altercations with them because he just played too rough.”
Sounds about right.
On Thursday, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was a guest on The Doug Gottlieb Show on CBS Sports Radio. Over the 15 minute conversation, Stotts discusses LeBron James saying he would have been his pick for 2016 NBA Coach of the Year, Kevin Durant signing as a free agent with the Golden State Warriors, the notion of “super teams” in the NBA, having confidence in your players and his participation in the Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive.
You can listen to the entire interview here, though I’m transcribed a portion which you can read below…
On LeBron James saying Stotts should have been Coach of the Year:
“To be honest, it felt pretty good. I have a lot of respect obviously for LeBron, what he does and what he’s done in his career, but for him to come out and say that, it made me feel good.”
On Cleveland winning the NBA Finals after being down 3-1 to Golden State:
“Obviously it was historical. A lot of things went into it, but when a team can do that and to win two games on the road being down 3-1, it’s really remarkable. It just put an end to a historical season as it was with Golden State and what they did during the regular season, the way they came back against Oklahoma City and then for Cleveland to do that, it was just remarkable. I thought it was a remarkable season to begin with and it finished that way.”
On Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors:
“My first reaction was he earned the right to be a free agent. I know a lot of thought went into it and it wasn’t a decision that he took lightly. I know he took a lot of criticism for making that decision but I think he earned that right to make whatever decision he felt was best for him. I think it’s going to be interesting with Golden State. Obviously defending them is going to be a challenge because — we talked about versatility — they were already an extremely talented offensive team and he’s going to make them better. They’re going to be a different team than they were last year, they’re not going to have the big guys. When you lose Festus Ezeli, who is on our team now, and Andre Bogut and Maurice Speights, the look of their frontline is going to be different. But I think they could be just as good just because of what they’ll be able to do at the offensive end.”
His thoughts on “super teams” in the NBA:
“You know, I don’t know if it’s good or bad for the league. I’ve just kind of accepted that that’s the way things are. I know people have made comparisons when LeBron went to Miami and that was supposedly the first super team and they won two championships, but it’s not like there was a five year, seven year run dynasty. When you get out on the court, you still have to play the games. Obviously Golden State is going to be very good, but you’ve got to play an 82-game season, you’ve got to go through four series to win a championship. I think the league does thrive on star power, whether it’s star power within a team or having a team be a star. I don’t know, I think the league is doing extremely well, I think it’s extremely popular. I think this is just another story that people are going to be interested in.”
On having confidence in shooters like Allen Crabbe and CJ McCollum:
“I’m a big believer in confidence when shooting. It probably goes back to my freshman year in college when I didn’t know whether to shoot or (laughs) you know the phrase. But anyway, I’m a big believer in confidence and Allen and CJ are two different categories. CJ struggled with injuries his first two years and was trying to get incorporated into a roster that was winning 50 games and never really got into a rhythm. I think shooting is about rhythm and confidence. Same thing for AC, really, is that he did have opportunities to play in his first two years but he was playing behind Wes Matthews and Nic Batum and his opportunities on the court were limited. When you’re looking over your shoulder and trying not to make mistakes and putting pressure on (yourself) to make a shot, it’s difficult. I really give it to CJ and Allen, they were ready for this year and they were prepared for it, the opportunity was going to be there. But I think that a lot of players — and you know, you played — is that if the coach trusts me, I’m going to play better. Whether I trusted them or not their first two years, certainly their opportunity was there and I trusted them with the role that they were going to have.”
On his participation in the Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive:
“Every year what I do is I go through the closet and knowing that I’m going to get some suits in the fall, I go through and weed out the older ones. There’s certain ones that I do kind of have a special place in my heart for them, but other than that, I just take some of the older suits and the Men’s Wearhouse has a great program with the suit drive to give away suits to people who can use them. I’m kind of a bigger guy so hopefully there’s some big guys out there who are able to take advantage of them.”