PORTLAND, Ore. – The Miami Heat were in a difficult spot facing the surging Trail Blazers on the road with two key players sidelined with injuries.
And the result was not unexpected. … even though the Heat made it interesting for awhile in the fourth quarter.
The Heat put a scare into the Trail Blazers, cutting a 19-point deficit to three, but Portland quickly build the lead but up and came away with a 115-99 victory Monday at the Moda Center, stretching its winning streak to 10 games.
Miami (36-32) went on an 18-2 run, but Portland (41-26) outscored Miami 22-9 in the final six minutes.’
“We have competitive character in that locker room,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’re not going to pack up the tent and get out of here, that’s not in the DNA of our guys. But we needed a much more complete effort on the road against a team that’s playing as well as anybody in this league.”
Goran Dragic led the Heat with 23 points but had little help for three quarters. Tyler Johnson scored 17 points and Justise Winslow added 15 points and 13 rebounds. Dragic, though, was the lone Heat player in double figures until late in the third quarter.
Miami continues its three-game road trip Wednesday in Sacramento before heading to Los Angeles to face the Lakers on Friday.
The Heat were without Hassan Whiteside and Dwyane Wade. Wade missed his first a game after suffering a mild left hamstring strain Saturday against Washington, Whiteside sat for the second consecutive game after injuring his left hip during Saturday’s shootaround.
Here are our five takeaways from the loss:
Road blues: At one point this season the Heat were a solid road team, winning 16 of their first 27 games, including a stretch in which they won 6-of-7. But Miami has stumbled on the road as of late, the loss in Portland being its eighth in a row. The Heat have not won a road game since Jan. 29 in Dallas.
“I don’t care about any of that right now,” Spoelstra said. “It’s about what happened in this game and what’s going to happen in the next game. This wasn’t like the other ones where we legitimately had a chance to close it out. This was different.”
One Dragon is not enough: The Heat were the epitome of a one-man team for three quarters on Monday and when the help for Dragic came it was too late. All of Dragic’s 23 points came in the first three quarters. At that point he was shooting 10 of 16 and the rest of the Heat were 17 of 53. The numbers were even more lopsided in the first half. Dragic started 7 of 10 while his teammates were a combined 8 of 35.
“They’re a good defensive team,” Spoelstra said. “They force you to have to execute. We didn’t really execute with force or purpose until the end of the third quarter, fourth quarter. A lot of one pass shots without a lot of purpose to them in the first half. Goran was able to shake free but we weren’t able to sustain it for a long period of time.”
Winslow with a solid showing: So Winslow doesn’t need Wade after all. Winslow, who has seen a resurgence in his game since Wade returned, continued his solid all-around play Monday with Wade sitting out. The Heat forward equaled his career-best with 13 rebounds and scored 10 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter. Winslow was a key figure in the Heat’s 18-2 run that got them back in the game scoring nine points.
“I kept playing, I kept fighting,” Winslow said. “The whole team we kept believing. It wasn’t going our way and unfortunately our run was in the fourth quarter, it wasn’t in the second or third quarter.”
Blazers dynamic due: This time is wasn’t the backcourt of Damon Lillard and C.J. McCollum, which entered the game as the highest scoring backcourt in the league with a combined average of 48.6, that did in Miami. But it Lillard and center Jusuf Nurkic who combined for 59 points in the Trail Blazers victory. Lillard led all scorers with 32 points and added 10 assists.
“This team is playing extremely well and I don’t know if there’s any other players in this league right now playing at a higher level than Lillard,” Spoelstra said. “Obviously you know the names that are in the MVP conversation (but) the way he’s playing now and the way they’re winning he should be in that conversation as well.”
Back and forth: The Heat’s loss combined with the Bucks’ 121-103 win at the Grizzlies drops the Heat back to the eighth – and final – playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Miami is one-half game behind Milwaukee but own the tie-breaker over the Bucks. The Heat, who remain five games ahead of No. 9 Detroit, are 1.5 games behind No. 6 Philadelphia and 2.5 games behind No. 5 Washington.