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.
Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is currently holding his annual youth basketball camp in Beaverton, and unlike some of these events put on by other players, Lillard is there actually there working with the kids every day. If you send your child to the Damian Lillard Basketball Camp, he or she is going to meet Damian Lillard.
But even though the focus is on the kids, Lillard took a few minutes to take questions from the media about the camp, his recent trip to Asia, working with Special Olympics, the upcoming free agent signing period on his involvement with recruiting and why he declined to to play for Team USA.
Regarding the Damian Lillard Basketball Camp experience…
“When I get up there and speak, I tell them ‘Make sure you thank your parents, make sure you listen to the coaches, follow their instructions, be coachable, work hard.’ Just simple things like that, a lot of basic things that could teach them a lot more than how simple it is, things like that. Just being here and having a presence is the biggest thing. The session that you guys just watched, it’s something that I’ve enjoyed because it allows me to kind of break apart the game for the kids. For them it might be a little bit boring, but it’s 10 minutes of the day where they get to listen and see what’s going on, that it’s deeper than just a pass and a shot. Some of them are probably too young to follow it as well as the older ones, but I think it’s something that you can really teach them at a young age.”
On his relationship with Special Olympics…
“When I was 17, when I first got on campus at Weber State, it was a mandatory thing, we did a one day camp with Special Olympics. The first day I kind of just went in there, I didn’t really know much about it. But then I saw that some of them, they wanted to play against us and they could actually play. They had as much passion with the game as I did, they really enjoyed our company. I’ll never forget, it was a random day like months after the Special Olympics event and there was a kid — I’ll never forget his name — Jason Depper. I was at the mall and he walked up to me at the mall like ‘Remember I made that shot on you?’ and I was just like ‘That’s funny.’ It had that type of impact on him. I’ve been involved ever since.”
On his recent trip through Asia with adidas…
“It was fun, did some pop-ups at stores. I went to some 3-on-3 tournaments, watched a lot of kids play. They’re playing so they can all make it to Beijing and it’s like a super tournament over there right now. I did some promotion for my shoes and things like that, I went back to a store that I opened up after my rookie year in Taipei, I went back to Manila. We did a huge event there, I got to get in the three-point shootout, they let me perform a couple times over there. It was kind of on the spot performances, but I had a lot of fun.”
Why he decided not to be a part of the 2016 Olympic team…
“It was simple: the last three months of the season I played with plantar fasciitis and it really bothered me. There was days the games seemed like the only time I could play, and that was adrenaline and two hours of treatment before the game. I didn’t want to go into next season dealing with it. I actually really wanted to play and I was really close to saying ‘Just forget it, I’m going to go’ but I didn’t want to go to Rio and come back a month before training camp and my foot still be bothering me, then I can’t give what I want to give to my team. That was just more important to me.”
On free agency…
“I think there’s some guys out there that can really help take our team to the next level. I really like the guys we have, too. I’m a strong believer that if guys go home and get better over the summer, we come back, we’ll be that much better. We’ll continue to get better. But my job is to make sure that I’m prepared and when I’m asked about a player that can help us, I’m going to give my honest opinion. That’s my duty to our team.”
His thoughts on Portland’s free agency plan…
“I’m excited, because it’s not hard to see… Our whole roster could look at free agency and say ‘This guy could help us, this guy could help us.’ It’s just a matter of how bad they want to be here, what we have to offer compared to what they would like. We’ll see where it goes. I have no doubt that our team is going to be ready regardless of who we bring in, who we don’t bring in. We’ll come back ready.”
Whether he’s going to help recruit free agents in person…
“Maybe. Maaaaaaybe… I might. To help our team, of course.”
Regarding what he’d tell free agents who might have “red flags” about joining Portland’s locker room…
“When I speak to these guys, I’m going to tell them what it is with our team on how we do things, what will be tolerated and what won’t. If we happen to get someone that has red flags, we don’t know for sure if that’s ‘he said, she said’ or if it’s real or if it’s the situation or people around him or what. But if it comes to our culture and our individual, it will be addressed. Nobody going to back down to nobody, let somebody come in here and think something is going to change, because it’s not. That’s not just me. I’m going to be the first one to say something because that’s just what it is. I know CJ (McCollum) is going to back that up and each guy down the line is going to back that up. We show up every day to practice to work, we show up on time, we hold each other accountable, we allow our teammates to hold us accountable and that’s the bottom line. We don’t do cute stuff, we show up and do what we’ve got to do and that’s it. If you don’t want to do it, it’s not going to work.”
Greetings fans of NBA offseason news. With the 2106 Draft now completed and the free agent moratorium less than 48 away, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, hit the Moda Center studio to record yet another edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
This week, Trail Blazers power forward Meyers Leonard joins the show to discuss his travels around Oregon this offseason, rehabbing from the shoulder surgery that prematurely ended his 2015-16 season, “sprint mechanics” and his upcoming restricted free agency. As for the rest of the show, we briefly recap Portland’s draft night, which netted the team Maryland forward Jake Layman, discuss what we know about the negotiations regarding the team’s television rights and discuss the unpredictability that is free agency.
The relationship between Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver predates both of their current occupations. When the two first sat down for a interview back in 2010, McCollum had not yet been drafted by the Trail Blazers with the 10th overall pick of the 2012 Draft (though that would happen later that night) and Silver, while already tabbed to take over for outgoing commissioner David Stern, was still pulling duty as deputy commissioner.
Every year since then, McCollum and Silver have met up in New York City after the end of the season to discuss topics pertaining to the NBA and society in general. In 2014, they discussed the situation with the previous Los Angeles Clippers ownership, the age limit, emerging technologies, Silver’s first year as the NBA’s head honcho and their favorite Jay-Z tracks. In 2015, McCollum, armed with a few seasons of experience and a new job at The Players’ Tribune, followed up on some of the questions from the year before regarding the age limit while also bringing up issues such as ads on jerseys, transparency in officiating and head injuries.
And in their fourth annual interview, released on The Players’ Tribune as a part of McCollum’s summer internship with the athlete-owned website, the two discuss how far they’ve come (or in CJ’s case, how much weight he’s lost) since their first meeting in 2012, Silver’s handshakes, whether the NBA would have their All-Star Weekend at “remote locations” like the NFL, whether the league is considering moving the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, the 2016 NBA Finals and the suspension of Draymond Green and recent efforts to increase diversity in NBA front offices. You can watch an excerpt of the interview in the above video, or read the entire Q&A over at The Players’ Tribune.