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.
PORTLAND — It wasn’t easy, but usually that’s the way things go in an elimination game.
Though it came down to the final seconds, the Portland Trail Blazers were able to defeat an undermanned Clippers team 106-103 Friday night at the Moda Center in Game Six of their first round playoff series. With the win, the Trail Blazers take the series 4-2 and move on to face the Golden State Warriors, the reigning NBA champions, in the Western Conference semifinals.
“Hey, 106-103 is beautiful,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts, who become just the fourth Portland head coach to get his team out of the first round more than once. “Look, it was a grind it out game. They have some players who can put the ball in the basket and play off the dribble. Honestly, we lost so many of these type of games early in the season, to keep our composure and make the plays, get a rebound, make some free throws, trust your teammates. It’s not going to be a beautiful 48 minutes. But what I have a problem with is that when you don’t score, it’s considered ugly basketball – when two teams are really competing and playing hard and defending, to me, that’s a thing of beauty as well.”
With the win, the Trail Blazers improve to 10-0 all-time at home potential playoff series-clinching games. The Trail Blazers are the first team since 2000 to win four-consecutive playoff games in the same series. What’s more, the Trail Blazers are just the 16th team in NBA history to win a series after starting off losing the first two games.
And after failing to win a playoff series for 14-straight season, the Trail Blazers have now advanced to the second round in two of the last three seasons.
The Trail Blazers, as was the case in Game Five at Staples Center, were never able to put the Clippers away in the first three quarters, with the visitors, playing without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, taking an 82-80 lead into the fourth quarter. Portland would erase that slim deficit and take a seven-point lead of their own late in the fourth, but the Clippers never relented, tying the game at 103-103 with 32.1 seconds to play.
But Mason Plumlee would save the day, as he’s done on multiple occasions in the first round, by securing an offense rebound and getting fouled while attempting a putback with 14.7 seconds to play. He’d make both free throws, and would go 1-of-2 from the line on the next possession, to secure the three-point win.
“It feels great,” said Plumlee, who became the first Trail Blazer since 1977 to record at least 10 rebounds in five-straight playoff games. “There’s no easy playoff wins, there’s no easy series. Our guys were resilient, they really played well. We’re ready for the next round.
The Trail Blazers were led by Damian Lillard, who went 9-of-21 from the field for 28 points to go with seven assists and five rebounds in 38 minutes. CJ McCollum went 7-of-16 from the field and 2-of-3 from three to add 20 points.
Plumlee finished with nine points, 14 rebounds, four assists and a steal in 31 minutes. Maurice Harkless scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half to go with three rebounds in 29 minutes. Allen Crabbe went 5-of-9 to add 13 points and five rebounds in 31 minutes.
The Clippers had five players score in double figures led by Jamal Crawford, who went 10-of-25 from the field for a game-high 32 points. Austin Rivers, who was bloodied in the first quarter after catching an elbow from Al-Farouq Aminu, causing a gash that required 11 stitches, finished with 21 points, eight assists and six rebounds in 31 minutes.
The Trail Blazers now move on to face a Golden State Warriors team that set the NBA record for wins in a season with 73 after winning the 2015 NBA Championship. Reigning MVP Stephen Curry is currently sidelined with an MCL sprain and is not expected to be available for the first two games of the series, though Golden State still managed to advance to the second round nonetheless.
“We thought this team was tough without CP and Blake, but (the Warriors are) a championship team,” said Lillard. “Even without Steph, they’re still a championship team. We’ve got to keep our mind right, compete and play together. We can’t be worried about who’s not out there because we just watched them beat Houston by 25 twice without Steph. We’ve just got to keep improving on the things we’ve done well and be locked in defensively.”
On the plus side, the Trail Blazers were one of the few teams to best the Warriors this season, blowing out the defending champs 137-105 on February 19. However, Golden State took the other three games of the season series by an average of 20.3 points.
“They pose a lot of problems,” said McCollum. “Historically speaking, they had a really good year breaking the record for wins, losing one game at home I believe this year, so you know it’s going to be a tough environment. Offensively, even without Steph, they do a great job of moving the ball. Draymond is the head of the snake now that Steph’s out, and he moves the ball well. He’s the heart and soul of the team and he gets everybody involved. Klay will be a little bit more aggressive looking to score without Steph and Harrison Barnes and Shaun Livingston and the rest of the guys will be a lot more aggressive too.”
The Trail Blazers will now fly to the bay area for Game One, which is scheduled for Sunday at Oracle Arena in Oakland.
“As the series goes along, both teams will make adjustments,” said Stotts. “They’ve had some time to think about us. It’s going to be a challenge obviously, but we’ll watch a lot of video tonight and tomorrow, have a meeting tomorrow, and be ready to tip it up on Sunday.”
Tipoff is set for 7:30 pm on ABC and 620 AM.
When the Western Conference first round series between the Trail Blazers and Clippers started, many assumed it would be a quick affair, with the Clippers eventually moving on to face the Golden State Warriors in the second round. And after Warriors point guard Stephen Curry suffered a knee injury that will keep the reigning MVP sidelined for the start of the second round, much of the conversation revolved around how that would improve the Clippers’ chances of beating the defending champs in the Western Conference semifinals. The fact that the Clippers still had to beat the Trail Blazers two more times didn’t seem to make much of a difference.
A few days later, that narrative has flipped. Leading the series 3-2 with a chance to clinch in Game Six tonight at the Moda Center (tipoff scheduled for 7:30 pm on KGW, ESPN and 620 AM), the Trail Blazers are now Golden State’s presumptive opponent, as injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have all but ended the Clippers’ playoff run.
But just as the Clippers still had to win four games to advance, so too do the Trail Blazers, which is a good reminder that there are no such thing as inevitability when it comes to sports. “That’s why the play the game,” might be trite, but it’s still as true as it ever was, something the Trail Blazers know as well as any team still alive in the postseason.
“We just go out there and play, we don’t really pay attention to what’s being said,” said CJ McCollum. “You can’t read into that too much. First we were supposed to get swept, first we were just happy to win a game, so you just go play. You don’t really worry about the other stuff, you just control what you can control, keep your mindset the same, understand that nothing is inevitable. You’ve got to go out there and play.”
Though the Trail Blazers were able to beat the Clippers 108-98 at Staples Center in Game Five sans Paul and Blake, a team led by JJ Redick, DeAndre Jordan and Austin Rivers still managed to take a five-point lead into the half and had the game tied at 71-71 going into the fourth quarter, so it’s not as if any team, including Portland, can just roll the ball out in a playoff game and expect to emerge with the victory. After all, if that were the case, the Clippers would already be in Oakland preparing for the Western Conference semifinals.
“We understand that they’re a good team,” said McCollum “Regardless of what’s happened, regardless of what injuries they’ve gone through, they’re still a good team and we’ve still got to go play the game.”
And we’re back. After the Trail Blazers defeated a shorthanded Clippers team 109-98 in Game Five at Staples Center to take a 3-2 lead in the first round series, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, hit the Moda Center studios once again to deliver another playoff edition of the Rip City Report podcast. Please consider listening…
On this episode, Joe and I discuss the Trail Blazers being on the verge of winning just their second playoff series in the last 16 years, what we’re expecting to see during Game Six Friday in Portland, make our picks for the Trail Blazers’ MVP and most surprising during the first five games, how the injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin change the narrative surrounding the series and answer some of your Twitter-submitted questions regarding Chris Kaman’s birthday, non-Moda Center places to watch Game Six, player playoff bonuses and give a few binge watching suggestions, not that you’d ever need to watch TV again with all these fine podcasts we’re providing for you.