Dec 28, 2013; Portland, OR, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (left) celebrates with center Chris Bosh (1) after Bosh hit the game winning shot against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Moda Center. The Heat won the game 108-107. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers Fall to Miami Heat 108-107

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In a back-and-forth contest in which the Blazers seemed like they were always one run away from cracking it wide open, Chris Bosh decided to go full ostrich on the Blazers and hit the game-winning three with 0.5 seconds left for the final margin of 108-107. Down 1, the Blazers drew up a beautiful out-of-bounds play that found LaMarcus Aldridge as open as you could possibly hope for just a few feet from the basket, but he misjudged his spacial positioning and tossed it up long, and the Heat got the win without LeBron James.

 

(Brief) Recap

This game was a you-stab-me, I-stab-you affair throughout. The Blazers were never able to put on a huge run like we’ve come to expect, and found themselves down by 3 with a minute 20 left. LaMarcus Aldridge bullied his way for two, the Blazers held on defense, and Nicolas Batum was fouled on a three-point attempt and hit all 3 free throws. The Blazers, anxious about allowing a three, let Dwyane Wade march into the paint for a dunk, and Lillard failed to convert on a drive on the other end… but Batum got the rebound and was fouled! He hit both, and the Blazers needed to get a stop to hold their 2-point lead. Miami opted to give it to Wade, who drove and was met by two Portland defenders. Instead of panicking, Wade (somewhat awkwardly) threw a behind-the-back pass to Chris Bosh about a step-and-a-half outside the three-point arc… and he drilled it. Portland lobbed the aforementioned clean look to Aldridge at the rim, but his shot went long and Miami ran away with the well-deserved victory.

 

Players

LaMarcus Aldridge got his usual diet of shots when the Blazers were able to get it to him. Unfortunately, more often than not, a pesky Miami defense was able to force the Blazers into a series of crappy and/or lazy passes, and they hedged very heavily on screens to prevent passes into the interior, opting to bother the passer rather than the recipient. It worked, and Aldridge took “just” 20 shots, hitting 9 of them for 22 points, with 7 rebounds and 4 assists. This game very much featured the Aldridge from two years ago… not the dominant Aldridge we’ve grown accustomed to, but again, a lot of that is on the backcourt and not him.

Wesley Matthews picked his spots and had a great shooting game, going 5-8 from deep for 23 points. However, 16 of those came by halftime, and you got the feeling that if the Blazers had been better-able to adjust to Miami’s tendency to hedge heavily on screens and prevent the passer from getting clean looks that this game could have been a lot different. This is to take nothing away from Matthews, who is showing every game that he’s improved with his post-ups, his drives, and his ball handling. He’s a different and better player than he’s ever been in his career. Kudos to him.

Damian Lillard followed a quiet game with yet another quiet game. Sometimes it feels like his “cool, but not too cool for school” is a little like it’s too cool for both school and the court. It would be nice to see him play a little bit pissed off, and the Blazers could have used it in a game that featured little to no defense for most of it. Even the points at which neither team scored were much more due to the fact that open shots wouldn’t fall than it was a function of good defense. He finished with an unremarkable (for him) 16 points and 7 assists.

Robin Lopez was the Blazers’ third-leading scorer with 17 points. He had just 7 rebounds, which is less than we’ve been used to seeing. Portland won the rebounding battle by a paltry 6 boards (41-35) which, against the league’s worst rebounding team, is not good. Miami played motivated, and it was less that Lopez was doing a poor job and more that Miami played about as determined as could be expected. Maybe that’s in part because they had rested a number of the best players the day before in preparation for this game, only to lose their VERY BEST player to injury. Whatever the reason, the Blazers didn’t control the boards the way they’re used to doing, and Lopez’s numbers reflected that.

Nicolas Batum played very good defense, and came up with a number of very smart, very athletic blocks. These were not of the opportune variety, but tough-nosed, mobile blocks that changed the momentum of the game. His scoring wasn’t up to snuff, but as usual he found other ways to contribute. He ended up with 11, 6, and 9 with 3 blocks.

Joel Freeland played very hard, and deserved every statistic attributed to him. With 5 points and Blazers-high 12 (!!!) rebounds, his impact on the game was most welcome. When Miami was playing hard, Freeland played harder. When Miami hedged heavily at the top of the key, Freeland was there to corral the dump-off passes and convert. Someone needs to transplant his brain into Meyers Leonard’s body and watch the havoc that would be wreaked on the opposition.

You can almost pencil in Mo Williams for a handful of points and assists every game… he had 5 and 9 in this one, and provided a much-needed spark when the Blazers’ offense didn’t look particularly cohesive. He did, however, have 5 turnovers in a game where the Blazers committed 17 as a team to Miami’s 12. As with most games, one would hope that Mo would rely more heavily on his reputation and less heavily on twisted, fading long jumpers that are statistically less than stellar options.

Meyers Leonard got some playing time again, and a series of embarrassing plays that included a goaltend, a travel, and a hurried airball with time left on the clock didn’t help his case. He did have 6 points and 5 rebounds, and generally looked a tick or two more competant than he did earlier in the year, but he’s far from ready to be a permanent rotation player.

The 24-6 Blazers have a few days to think about what they did and didn’t do before facing the 13-15 Pelicans on Monday at 5 p.m. in New Orleans.

 

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Tags: Chris Bosh LaMarcus Aldridge Portland Trail Blazers Wesley Matthews

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