Blazers Get Back But Falter In Fourth In Loss To Heat
PORTLAND -- Anfernee Simons got hot yet again, but not hot enough to overcome the Heat.
Though they managed to rally from a 19-point deficit to tie the game in the fourth quarter, the Trail Blazers were never able to take the lead late and eventually lost 115-109 to Miami in front of a crowd of 15,773 Wednesday night at Moda Center.
“Just a missed opportunity,” said head coach Chauncey Billups. “I thought we played hard as heck. There’s always a moment of truth in the game. We knew that this team is a really good offensive rebounding team, and they just keep coming. We talked about it and sometimes until it actually happens you don’t really understand it.”
The Trail Blazers are now 14-23 overall and 12-10 at home this season.
Portland found themselves down early and went into the half trailing by 11 thanks to shooting just 31 percent from the field while allowing the Heat to make 12 of 22 attempts from three.
But as he did in Monday night’s victory versus the Hawks, Simons, who once again got the start with Damian Lillard (abdominal tendinopathy), went off in the third quarter, going 7-of-10 from the field, 4-of-6 from three and 2-of-2 from the free throw line for 20 points.
“I was kind of trying to make the right plays at certain moments and I was trying to figure out my way to be aggressive at a certain time,” said Simons. “And then in the second half they kind of started playing normal, not being up at the beginning of the third quarter and that’s when I knew it was my time to start being aggressive. That’s when I kind of got hot.”
And with three assists, Simons had a hand in 10 of Portland’s 12 made field goals in the third quarter.
Behind Simons’ effort, Portland outscored Miami by eight in the third to cut the lead to 83-80 going into the fourth. And when a Dennis Smith layup tied the game at 90-90 with 9:41 to play, it seemed as if the Blazers might get their second-straight win versus a shorthanded Eastern Conference opponent.
But Heat guard Max Strus would make sure that would not be the case. Miami responded to the tie by going on a 15-2 run, with Strus scoring nine-straight, all on three-pointers, to push the advantage to 105-92 with just under four minutes to play, more than enough to come away with the six-point victory.
(Strus) was hitting some tough threes, hit a bank shot three, those plays are deflating, especially when you're working so hard to get stops,” said Norman Powell. “I think the biggest thing that hurt us, besides that, was just offensive rebounds. We were playing good initial defense, stopping them and their offensive rebounds, the kick out threes, it was deflating late in game in that fourth quarter.”
Simons finished with a game-high 28 points on 9-of-17 shooting from the field, 5-of-10 shooting from three and 5-of-5 shooting from the line while also tallying seven assists, two steals and a rebound in 39 minutes.
Norman Powell went 7-of-18 from the field, 3-of-7 from three and 9-of-10 from the free throw line for 26 points to go with three rebounds, an assist and a block in 40 minutes.
Jusuf Nurkic posted a double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds before being ejected in the fourth quarter due to an altercation with Heat guard Tyler Herro. Robert Covington added 10 points and nine rebounds off the bench while Nassir Little also posted 10 points to go with four rebounds and three assists.
Larry Nance Jr. left the game in the third quarter with a right knee injury and did not return.
Strus led the Heat with 25 points on 9-of-17 shooting from the field and 7-of-13 shooting from three.
Next up, the Trail Blazers continue a five-game homestand by hosting another Eastern Conference club, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Friday night at Moda Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.