Blazers Get Greedy, Finish Trip With Third-Straight Win Versus Heat
MIAMI -- After the Trail Blazers defeated the Hawks in Atlanta Saturday night for their third win of a five-game road swing, guard Damian Lillard said they needed to “get greedy” in order to beat the Heat in Miami before heading back home to Portland.
Sunday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, Lillard and the Trail Blazers proved that sometimes, greed is good.
The 6-3 guard out of Weber State continued his late-season dominance, tying the franchise record for three-pointers made in a game on the way to a season-high 49 points and a 115-104 victory versus the Heat in front of a sellout crowd of 19,600.
“We had a good trip leading up to this game and we talked about getting greedy and coming out and not just accepting that we had a good, I guess, first four games of the trip.,” said Lillard. “Come out here tonight and want this one too. I thought our team did a great job of coming out. They had a good start to the game but we played physical, we executed offensively, we shared the ball. It was a good group effort.”
The win is Portland's first in Miami since March 3, 2011 and gives the Trail Blazers their first season series sweep versus the Heat since the 2008-09 season.
The Trail Blazers are now 32-37 overall, 15-23 on the road and have now won three-straight and eight of their last 10. Portland finishes the five-game trip 4-1 and now trails the Denver Nuggets by just 1.0 games with 13 games to play.
The Heat jumped out to a quick lead Sunday night thanks to center Hassan Whiteside scoring Miami’s first 10 points of the game. But Portland would weather that initial barrage to head into the second quarter trailing 29-28.
The game would remain within five points or less for the next two-plus quarters, though it would be the Trail Blazers that would finally break the game open. Portland would take what was their largest lead of the night early in the fourth quarter after a CJ McCollum 16-footer gave put the Trail Blazers up 87-79 wit 11:33 to play. But the Heat responded with a 7-0 run to excite the crowd and cut the deficit to a single point.
But in came Lillard, who hit a three on the ensuing possession to push Portland’s lead back to four. The Trail Blazers would go on to outscore the Heat 28-18 after Lillard came back into the game on the way to the 11-point victory.
“I felt good so in my mind I was like ‘When I get back in the game I’m just going to take the game over.’ That’s the kind of game I felt I had going. I saw that they was breaking down the lead and over the course of a game I always call certain plays early in the game to see what we can call that we might be able to get to late in the game. And I might not call that play in maybe the second or third quarter and wait until we get down the stretch. I had a few calls where I was like ‘Alright, if I call this play I know I’m going to get to this spot or I know we’re going to be able to get this shot.’ That’s what I was thinking from the bench: I’m going to will us to a win.”
Which he eventually did.
Lillard made nine three-pointers and all 12 of his free throws to finish with 49 points on 14-of-21 shooting, five assists and a block in 36 minutes. In the process, Lillard became the first Trail Blazer in franchise history to record 1,000 made three-pointers in his career.
Nurkić, who scored just four points in the first half, finished strong to tally a double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds while also blocking three shots in 29 minutes.
"I thought (Nurkić) was fantastic in the second half," said Stotts. "Obviously Whiteside got off to a good start and I thought Nurk struggled a little bit in the first half but he made some big plays for us in the second half. Damian finding him on the roll -- they were trying to take Dame out -- and him going down the lane and being able to catch and finish was important."
CJ McCollum added 18 points, five rebounds and five assists and Noah Vonleh once again finished in double figures with 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go with seven rebounds in 28 minutes.
James Johnson scored 24 points off the bench to lead the Heat. Both Whiteside and Dragic finished with 17 points and Tyler Johnson added 14 in the losing effort.
With their last extended road trip now completed, the Trail Blazers return home to play 10 of their final 13 games at the Moda Center starting Wednesday versus the Milwaukee Bucks.
“The key with the 10 home games out of 13 is we can’t lose our edge,” said Stotts. “That’s what I told our team. Being at home doesn’t guarantee anything. Certainly it is an advantage, but we can’t let our guard down or lose our edge.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 7 pm.