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.