On Friday night the Blazers had a game potentially stolen from them against the Utah Jazz. I say potentially because we don’t know what the Jazz would have done with the final nine seconds in the game or what would have happened in overtime.
We should have had the opportunity to find out. It was leaked that Damian Lillard and Terry Stotts would not be fined for talking out against the officials. I’d like to think my text to the commissioner of the league helped that, but I doubt it did.
Tonight the Blazers are back home and facing the Miami Heat without Jimmy Butler and former Blazer Meyers Leonard. Andre Iguodala will be suiting up for the Heat tonight in his first game since the NBA Finals last June.
Trevor Ariza gets the Blazers out to a quick 8-3 lead. He’s attacking Duncan Robinson at will. Robinson is not a great defender, he’s strength is shooting the three. Carmelo Anthony gets switched on to Robinson and he bangs him down for an easy basket. Robinson has given up 12 of Miami’s first 14 points to the Blazers.
Damian Lillard hits a three on an ankle-breaking move on Derrick Jones Jr. and gets a three-point play to give the Blazers a seven-point lead. Duncan Robinson and Jones knock down a few threes and the lead is cut down to three just like.
Miami shoots the most threes of any team in the East and they shoot the highest percentage of anyone in the NBA. You would not think that from an Erik Spoelstra led team. Spoelstra is one of the better coaches in the game, so it is to be expected that he would evolve with the players he has.
Sadly, through the first eight minutes, we haven’t seen a lot of Bam Adebayo and Hassan Whiteside banging on each other in the paint. Adebayo made Whiteside expendable and that’s how we ended up with Hassan in Portland. As soon as I type that Whiteside drops a baseline jumper right in Bam’s eye.
Kelly Olynyk, for the most part, has drawn most of Whiteside’s attention on both sides of the court.
The Blazers played one of their best offensive first quarters all season and lead 38-36. Their defense got picked apart by the Heat’s ability to knock down three-pointers from all over. They were 7-15 from three, while Portland was 5-9. Ariza did have 15 points and is making up for getting kicked out of the game against Utah.
Gary Trent Jr. has three fouls early, but he’s still playing the best defense on the perimeter for the Blazers. he had some big steals on Friday against the Jazz. He punked Donovan Mitchell on a couple of those steals Friday night and Mitchell was not happy about it. Trent has a couple of nice buckets tonight. I really do think he’s passed Anfernee Simons. His confidence is through the roof right now. He’s going to be trouble on so many levels come playoff time.
A Jae Crowder three gives the Heat their first lead of the night. I think Crowder is the bigger get from the trade with Memphis. He’s such a white shark out there on the court (I refuse to use pitbull because every pit I know is the sweetest dog in the world) and going to be a great stopper. Pair him with Butler and if Iggy is half the defender he was in the past Miami is going to be tough to beat in the Eastern Conference Playoffs in a couple of months.
Kendrick Nunn is another undrafted guy by the Heat. It seems like half their team is undrafted. Just shows you how good of a coach Spoelstra is.
The game is close and the Heat are shooting pretty well, but the Blazers are playing really good defense for the most part. Hassan Whiteside has three blocks so far in the first half, Trevor Ariza has three steals and Gary Trent Jr. has two. Their rotations have been solid and have contested a lot of the Heat threes. They have allowed some open shots, but less than they normally do.
Gary Trent Jr. is just feeling it. He’s got another three and is the Blazers’ best bench player. He has 13 points off the bench and Ariza has 19 to give the Blazers a 63-60 lead at the half. The Blazers did this without too much for either Dame and CJ. I would like to see Melo light it up in the second half as well.
Damian Lillard hits Carmelo Anthony in the corner for a three. That’s Dame’s fifth assist of the night. Dame is seeing the court better than he ever has in his career. He’s seeing through paper thing creases and getting the ball into places he’s not supposed to for assists. Then his three-point shooting is the just unstoppable right now. He’s got a quick five also in the third period.
I have to think Duncan Robinson is a better defender than he’s showing tonight. I don’t care how well he shoots the three, the amount of points he gives up on the defensive end does not make up for that in any way. The Blazers are attacking and killing him at will on the offensive end.
Dame and CJ have back to back baskets to push the lead up to nine and forcing the Heat to call a timeout. The timeout does not slow down Dame at all and he drills another 30 footer. Blazers are up 86-73.
This might be an unpopular opinion, but I think Wenyen Gabriel will eventually be a decent role player in this league. You can tell the game is going so fast for him right now. He’s trying to keep up mentally, but pushing himself too much and it’s causing him to make mistakes. When the game slows down for him he will be fine. He’s a good cheap big the Blazers can keep and coach up for a long time.
Dragic kicks out on a three attempt and trips Lillard. Lillard knocks down two free throws and we end the third quarter with the Blazers up 93-83.
Not a great start for the Blazers at the beginning of the fourth. Andre Iguodala forces two turnovers on CJ McCollum and they lead to a Chris Silva dunk and another three by Duncan Robinson. The Blazers’ lead is cut in half in less than a minute.
CJ has been off tonight. He’s not aggressive and he looks tired. Only one more game and he can have a week off.
Blazers are deciding to attack both Iggy and Jae Crowder to start the fourth. Duncan Robinson is on Trevor Ariza and they are not forcing switches on him. Ariza has not scored yet in the second half and I think a quick ISO in the post on Robinson could get him going again. I’m not sure why they are going after Crowder in the past with Carmelo Anthony. Crowder is the wrong guy to ISO.
This attacking of Crowder leads to an offensive foul on Anthony. It’s been way too much ISO in the fourth quarter and this has allowed the Miami Heat to get right back into it. Blazers are only up two after a three from Goran Dragic.
The Blazers do answer back with a three by Gary Trent Jr. He’s 4-6 from three tonight and shooting 70% from the floor overall. Dame then follows it up with a runner and he’s fouled by Iggy. Blazers go up 105-97 with just under five minutes remaining. The last couple of possessions have had a lot of ball movement and the Blazers got an open three and a good runner from Dame.
Terry Stotts is letting Gary Trent Jr. close tonight instead of Melo and this has been a great decision. Trent has played killer defense and his shooting is only matched by Dame at this point. He deserves to start closing out more games.
Damian Lillard drives by Jae Crowder and converts a layup with 25 seconds left to put Portland up 113-108. Crowder shoved him and hit him in the face and no call. Lillard has been getting done dirty by the refs all season long. The dude would be getting 50 a night if he was getting fouls called like he was James Harden.
Miami had four looks at a three to cut the lead to two, but Hassan Whiteside finally gets the rebound for Portland and seals the game and another double-double for the big man on the season.
Damian Lillard had 33, Gary Trent Jr with 22 off the bench, Trevor Ariza had 21, Whiteside with 11 points, 17 boards, and four blocks, Carmelo Anthony had 15, and CJ McCollum at 13. Trent was the only Blazer to score off the bench. He also had four steals.
The Blazers travel to New Orleans on Tuesday night to take on Zion Williamson and the Pelicans.