Blazers Get The Fourth-Quarter Stops They Need To Cool Heat In Miami

by Casey Holdahl
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MIAMI -- Both the Trail Blazers and Heat entered Thursday’s night’s game a bit short on bodies after both teams traded away significant rotation players earlier in the afternoon prior to the 2021 NBA trade deadline. The result was an evenly-matched affair that featured 24 lead changes and eight ties.

But in the end, the Trail Blazers came up with just a little bit extra to eke out the road win.

Portland outscored Miami 25-12 in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter to come away with a 125-122 victory Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.

“We played defense when we needed to,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “The last five minutes we were really aggressive rebounding the ball. And offensively we made the plays we needed to make.”

 The Trail Blazers are now 26-18 overall and 12-9 on the road this season. The win, the Trail Blazers remain in a tie with the Denver Nuggets for fifth in the Western Conference, 6.5 games behind the Utah Jazz in first.

In some respects, Thursday’s game almost seemed like an afterthought due to the Trail Blazers sending Rodney Hood and Gary Trent Jr. to the Toronto Raptors earlier in the day in exchange for guard/forward Norman Powell. And on the other side, the Heat acquired Victor Oladipo from Houston in exchange for Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley and the ability to swap first-round picks at some point.

Miami was also without both Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic due to various infirmities, and while he did play, Damian Lillard did so despite nursing a number of minor injuries.

With both teams playing new and/or different rotations due to the trades and injuries, the game remained aa close affair throughout. Neither team led by more than eight points in the first three quarters, Portland held just a one-point advantage at the intermission and the game was tied at 91-91 going into the fourth and final quarter.

But when the Heat went on a 17-3 run spanning four minutes in the fourth quarter to take the first double-digit lead of the game at 110-100 with 6:19 to play, it seemed as though the Trail Blazers were on the starting a four-game trip off with a disappointing loss. And the fact that they their defense had little to no success slowing Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn, it didn’t seem as though a comeback was really in the cards.

But as they’ve done on multiple occasions this season, the Trail Blazers managed to get stops when they needed them the most. Portland responded to Miami’s run with an 11-0 run of their own to reclaim the lead at 111-110 with 3:48 to play.

“I mean we got stops,” said Lillard. “That was the main thing. Coach mentioned the stat before the game, that in the clutch moments of the game we are a top 10 defensive team when it matters. And they just kind of stressed on why we don’t do this for a full game. It just came down to one of those situations again and we just got stops. I thought that was the number one thing. We got stops, we got rebounds and we just made things happen. In those moments, I think as a group we played really well.”

It was Robert Covington making a go-ahed three-pointer with just over a minute to play and Enes Kanter coming up with offensive rebound after offensive rebound. It was McCollum finding Derrick Jones Jr. for an and-one dunk over Duncan Robinson with 13.9 seconds to play. And finally, it was Lillard making three free throws with a one second to play that would finish off a furious six minutes that would tilt the game in Portland’s favor.

“We already know that we are going to score the ball,” said Kanter. “And I think especially the last four to five minutes, everyone did their job. We were communicating, we were going out there and really focusing on their defense and I think that is how we need to play every time, especially finishing the fourth quarter.”

McCollum led the Blazers with 35 points, 21 of which came in the first quarter, eight assists, a block and a rebound in 38 minutes.

“I made some shots. I made some plays,” said McCollum. “I had some turnovers. I got scored on a couple of times, but that’s just a part of the game. It’s more about having fun and playing hard.”

Lillard went for 22 points, nine assists and three rebounds in 39 minutes. Carmelo Anthony came off the bench to finish with 20 points and six rebounds.

Kanter finished with a double-double of 18 points and 16 rebounds, with nine of those coming on the offensive glass. Covington added 10 points and six rebounds to round out Portland’s double-digit scorers.

Herro and Adebayo each contributed 29 points to lead the Heat. Nunn had 22 and Duncan Robinson 12 in the losing effort.

The Trail Blazers now head north to face the Magic in Orlando in the second game of a back-to-back and the second of three games for Portland in the state of Florida this week. Tipoff is scheduled for Thursday at 8 p.m.


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