Blazers Come Up Big From Three To Defeat Heat

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- The Heat and Trail Blazers are two of the best three-point shooting teams in the NBA this season, with the former ranking second at 37.8 percent and the latter coming in not far behind at 37 percent, good enough to rank fifth. Given how accurate both teams have been behind there arc this season, it's not surprising to see how many attempts they got up Sunday night.

Both the Trail Blazers and Heat took nearly half of their attempts from behind the three-point line, though Miami couldn't find the mark when it mattered the most, with Portland coming away with a 115-109 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 19,726 Sunday night at the Moda Center.

“I think we’re playing good basketball, I think we’re playing tough," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "Miami is a difficult team to play against because of their style. I just liked our toughness more than anything else, both mental and physical toughness to win a game."

The Trail Blazers are now 25-29 overall and 15-11 at home this season. The Blazers have now won five straight games at home, a season best, and are 7-3 over their last 10 games. The win also ends a three-game losing streak to the Heat.

While the three-point shot is more prevalent and important today that it has been at any point during NBA history, the Trail Blazers and Heat still took their willingness to shoot from range to new levels Sunday night. The two teams combined to shoot 91 three-pointers, with the Trail Blazers going 19-of-42 and the Heat shooting 20-of-49.

Considering those percentages, it's hard to imagine that either coach had an issue with the number of threes attempted. And at least in Portland's case, it was welcomed.

"I feel great about that," said Stotts. "If we can get good looks from three, we have a lot of great three-point shooters... That's kind of the way the league is going. I do think we have a good paint presence. Damian's penetration and Hassan's paint presence opens up the opportunities for threes."

And the Blazers have shown themselves more than willing to take those opportunities. Trevor Ariza got up four three-pointers, with three of those coming in the first quarter. CJ McCollum got up nine attempts from deep, making three. Gary Trent Jr. continued his strong play, with five of his eight made field goals coming from deep.

And considering how shorthanded the Trail Blazers currently are -- they played most of Sunday's game with seven players with Anfernee Simons (concussion) and Nassir Little (left ankle sprain) sitting out and Mario Hezonja leaving the game after five minutes with a left ankle sprain -- relying on threes is probably a wise approach.

"The teams that shoot a lot of threes are really good at getting them so (Miami) just happened to get a lot of threes up," said Lillard, who went 6-of-15 from the three-point line. "Our coaches have been on us a year and a half now like "We need to shoot more threes.' Tonight was a night where we was firing them."

Portland went 6-of-11 from three in the third quarter, with a number of those makes coming during a 12-2 run that gave the Trail Blazers a 79-67 lead with 6:31 to play in the quarter. The Blazers would outscore the Heat 30-23 in the quarter, thanks mostly to Miami going just 2-of-6 from three in the quarter, giving the Blazers their first real separation of the game and a 10-point lead going into the fourth.

Though the Heat would use the three to cut into there Blazers' advantage early in the fourth. Duncan Robinson, Jae Crowder and Goran Dragic would all net three-pointers in the firs six and a half minutes of the quarter, cutting Portland's lead to 99-97 after a Dragic 25-footer.

But on the next possession, Trent Jr. answered with a three of his own to pus the advantage back to five with just over five minutes to play. Lillard finished a three the old fashioned way to push the lead to eight, with Crowder responding with another three to drop the deficit back to five.

After two Ariza free throws, Dragic made another three to cut Portland's lead to 107-103. Trent Jr. came back with another three on the next possession, and then Dragic came through again to bring the score to 111-0106 with 1:13 to play.

But Miami's three-point run would ultimately come up short. Down five with 25.6 seconds to play, Robinson missed twice and Dragic once from three, all on the same possession, to end Miami's chance of sweeping the season series. Hassan Whiteside was finally able to corral the rebound and was fouled, making two free throws against his former team to seal the six-point victory for Portland.

TOP PERFORMERS

Damian Lillard lead all scorers with 33 points on 11-of-23 shooting, eight assists, four rebounds, a steal and a block in 37 minutes. It was his 25th game this season with at least 30 points and his 19th straight game of scoring at least 20 points, tying the longest streak of his career.

Trevor Ariza scored 15 of his 21 points in the first quarter while also tallying five assists, four rebounds and three steals in just under 40 minutes.

Carmelo Anthony added 15 points and six rebounds and CJ McCollum added 13 points in 39 minutes.

Hassan Whiteside put his his 39th double-double of the season with 11 points and 17 rebounds. And Gary Trent Jr. finished with 22 points, the only points scored off Portland's bench Sunday night.

Five Heat players finished in double figures led by 27 points from Goran Dragic. Duncan Robinson finished with 19 and Jae Crowder went for 18 points and 11 rebounds.

NOTABLE

• Portland shot 19-of-42 (45.2%) from 3-PT range, while Miami was 20-of-49 (40.8%)from deep. It was the 10th time in Trail Blazers history that Portland made at least 19threes, while the Heat made 20-plus threes for the third time in team history.

• The Trail Blazers recorded nine steals and six blocks to the Heat’s six steals and five blocks.

• Portland was 40-of-85 (47.1%) from the field, while Miami shot 39-of-98 (39.8%). It was the eighth time in the last nine games that Portland has shot at least 45% from the field.

• Six Trail Blazers scored in double figures for the 12th time this season. Every player who scored for Portland finished in double figures.

• Miami outscored Portland in transition, 20-18.

QUOTABLE

"I told him the other day – I don’t know if I’ve ever been more proud or happier for another player or a younger player since I’ve been in the league than I am of what he’s been doing." -- Damian Lillard on the recent play of Gary Trent Jr.

HIGHLIGHTS

NEXT UP

The Trail Blazers now hit the road for a back-to-back versus the Pelicans and Grizzlies before the start of the All-Star Break. Tipoff in New Orleans is scheduled for Tuesday at 5 p.m.

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