The Portland Trail Blazers hung tight after going down by 17 points with just 9 minutes left in the game, to tie it with 30 seconds left, but allowed a LeBron James drive and then went no-huddle only to see Lillard’s final attempt get swatted away in a 93-91 loss to the Miami Heat.
Granted, any time you come back nearly 20 points in 9 minutes against the defending champs on their own court, you have to walk away feeling pretty good. The 30-point blowout in Charlotte, this was not. And while it’s weird to assume that a loss can put your team back on the road to winning, this game felt like it could maybe, just maybe, be that kind of game for the Blazers.
The biggest credit in this game should go to Terry Stotts shifting his defense in the fourth to a 2-3 zone, which seemed to simultaneously frustrate and confuse the home team as the Blazers went on a 30-13 run down the stretch. With 30 seconds left, the Blazers were a stop away from overtime, or perhaps even a chance to win. Unfortunately, the Heat have someone named LeBron James on their team, who ran through Blazer defenders like they were holograms en route to a layup, putting the Heat up 2 with 7 seconds left. Instead of call a timeout, the Blazers scrambled downcourt, and, looking a little rushed, Lillard pierced the defense and got to the rim for a very hotly contested attempt that would have been spectacular had it fallen. Instead, it was batted away by Chris Bosh, and the game was over.
While it is nice to see the Trail Blazers put forth a near-winning effort as they dropped the 8th of their last 12 games, there were certainly areas where they struggled that need to be improved upon.
Turnovers were a huge problem for the Trail Blazers throughout most of the game. With 7 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter the Trail Blazers had tallied 15 turnovers; most of which came on sloppy passes from Nicolas Batum. Although they tightened up to keep 15 the final figure, the damage was done.
It also did not help that the Trail Blazers shot a miserable 37.8 percent from the field, including 28.2 percent from deep. They hoisted 10 fewer shots than the Heat on a bad shooting night, but kept it close by making 10 more free throws. Miami’s defense was too stifling to allow easy shots, but just aggressive enough to hinder their efforts with foul trouble.
No Trail Blazer scored more than 20 points, but it was clear that the Heat had their eyes on Lillard the whole time. Despite leading the team with 19 points, Lillard shot just 3-15 from the field. Without LaMarcus Aldridge, Lillard receives more attention than he can handle from teams that know how to handle him. His 12-14 free throws were of minor consolation in the loss.
Though the Heat are on somewhat of a cold streak, this would have been a nice get. It wasn’t to be, and the Blazers don’t get any rest as they face the Orlando Magic tomorrow in Orlando at 4:00 p.m. PST.
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