Full Squad Effort Pulls Blazers Out Of Five-Game Losing Streak

by Casey Holdahl
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MIAMI -- After going well over two weeks without a win, the Trail Blazers finally ended a five-game losing streak by beating the Miami Heat 102-95 Wednesday night at American Airlines Arena. CJ McCollum led the way with a game-high 28 points while Damian Lillard scored nine of his 18 points in the fourth quarter to help complete the come-from-behind victory.

But it takes more than two players to pull a team out of a five-game skid. So while McCollum and Lillard might have been most responsible for the Trail Blazers getting their first victory since November 27, it was the performances from players such as Al-Farouq Aminu, Ed Davis, Evan Turner and Shabazz Napier Wednesday night that was the difference between evening their record to 1-1 on their current road trip and heading to Orlando with a sixth-straight loss.

“That's the way you would want it to be,” said Lillard of Portland’s team effort in Wednesday’s victory. “CJ can go out there and have a huge game, I can go out there and have a huge game and go steal one from somebody, go out there and get 40 or 50 and carry your team to a win. And then you can have it done by committee where everybody is pitching in and guys are doing things that you need them to do to be successful. And that's the way you would prefer to have it and I think that's how we got it tonight.”

There was Aminu hitting five three-pointers for the fourth time this season, an especially timely shooting performance with Lillard struggling from the field for most of the first three quarters, while also grabbing a game-best 13 rebounds in 37 minutes.

“He catching it and he raising up without thinking about it, he’s not head faking” said Lillard of Amimu. “His activity defensively is always good for us, just him using his length, the rebounding. I just feel great when guys come in and I make that pass to him, he’s raising up with confidence. Make or miss, when I see him raising up with confidence I think that’s a great thing for us.”

And then there was Davis, averaging less than 10 minutes a game during Portland’s losing streak, going for 11 points and five rebounds in a season-high 26 minutes. And Napier, who came off of DNPs in the last to games to score nine points on 4-of-7 shooting in 23 minutes. Up and down the roster, the Trail Blazers got at least a little something from everyone who saw significant minutes Wednesday night in Miami.

“That’s what it is going to take to be successful long-term,” said McCollum. “Other guys are going to have to step up and take advantage of minutes, take advantage of certain opportunities. (Aminu) been shooting the ball extremely well all year. Shabazz has been playing well all year. Obviously his minutes have fluctuated throughout the year, but when he’s been called upon he’s played well. Pat (Connaughton) gave us some minutes. Ed was great rebounding the ball and doing some different things in the post, making his free-throws, like he’s been doing all year. He’s been huge for us and that’s what it is going to take for us to have success.”

There will be some nights when Lillard and McCollum are able to carry the Trail Blazers to victory with little more than token assistance, at least offensively, from the rest of the roster. But when times get tough, as they have have been lately, it takes the kind of full squad performance they got from Wednesday night to get over the top.

“You don't want to have to play Dame 42 minutes to get a win,” said Davis. “It's tough to do that. Whenever we can give Dame and CJ and Nurk good minutes and extra production on the offensive end and things like that, it just helps us out a lot.”