Trail Blazers Fade Under Fourth-Quarter Pressure in Loss to Heat

by Casey Holdahl
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MIAMI -- After winning in Orlando a few nights prior, the Trail Blazers ended up splitting their games in the state of Florida with a 104-92 loss to the Heat in front of a sellout crowd of 19,600 Wednesday night at FTX Arena in Miami.

The trail Blazers are now 18-26 overall, 4-15 on the road and 2-2 on their current six-game trip. With the win, the Heat have swept the season series versus the Trail Blazers 2-0.

The Trail Blazers, despite an uneven performance that saw four of the five starters finish in double figures while the bench posted just 12 points combined, managed to take a lead into the fourth after the first three quarters featured 14 lead changes and four ties.

But Miami turned up the defensive intensity in the fourth after Portland shoot 48 percent from the field and 38 percent from three in the first 36 minutes of play Wednesday night. The Blazers would score just 12 points in the fourth on 22 percent shooting from the field and 0-of-9 shooting from three while the Heat shot better than 50 percent and scored 14 of their 26 fourth-quarter points in the paint.

“They did a good job of changing defenses on us a little bit,” said Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups. “A couple of their blitzes hurt us. Not only do they blitz, they kind of shot the gap on the next pass. We turned it over on some important times of the game. We got to give them credit.”

Portland had almost as many turnovers (four) as made field goals (five) in the fourth and were outscored by 14 to come away with the 12-point loss.

“I think we was playing well all through the first half, third quarter,” said Anfernee Simons. “Then I think late in the fourth their athleticism in them kind of disrupted us a little bit. I think we had a couple of good looks in good times and good plays. But ultimately they made a little bit more plays then us and that’s what kind of finished the game for us, so then that was just it.”

Simons went 9-of-18 from the field, 6-of-14 from three and 3-of-4 from the line for 27 points, seven assists, three rebounds, a steal and a block in 38 minutes.

CJ McCollum, in his second game since back after missing well over a month due to injury and the birth of his first child, went 10-of-20 from the field and 4-of-9 from three for 24 points to go with four assists, three rebounds and two steals in 32 minutes.

Jusuf Nurkic put up another double-double with 18 points and 14 rebounds while also tallying two assists, a steal and a block in 27 minutes. Robert Covington also added a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds in just under 38 minutes.

Nassir Little left the game in the second quarter with an acute patellar tendinopathy/contusion in his right knee and did not return.

“(Little)banged it in the last game against Orlando and he wanted to come out and see how it felt today and give us what he had,” said Billups. “He was a little sore, so he went out. They x-rayed him and it was clean. Kind of day-to-day, to see how he feels.”

Caleb Martin came off the bench to lead the head with 26 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Bam Adebayo posted a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds while also logging five steals and three blocks in 32 minutes.

After spending the last four days in Florida, the Trail Blazers now head north to play the last two games of a six-game trip starting with a tilt versus the Celtics Friday night in Boston. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.

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