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Lillard's 33 Not Enough To Keep Up With Heat

  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0


    Damian Lillard's stellar 33-point outing wasn't enough for the Trail Blazers (25-27) to outlast the defending champion Miami Heat (35-14)  in 117-104 shootout.

    When people use the phrase, "it was a game of runs," few games live up to that billing quite like tonight's match-up in Miami did. The Heat jumped out to a nine point lead in the first quarter but the Trail Blazers would storm back behind Lillard (33 points, 10-18 shooting) and LaMarcus Aldridge (29 points, 13-20 shooting) to take a four point lead after the first. The game would continue at this pace. At one stretch in the game, Aldridge scored 15 consecutive points as his fantastic offensive road trip continued.

    LeBron James (30 points, 11-15 FG) came into the game scoring 30+ points in five straight games while also shooting over 60 percent. The trend continued into tonight as he made it an NBA record six-straight games with 30+ points and over 60 percent from the field. However, for about 44 minutes, the World's best player and the defending champions were in a for a fight as the Trail Blazers were unfazed by the stage and by their opponent, but nobody embodies "unfazed" quite like Damian Lillard.

    "I thought it was a good effort by our team. The Miami Heat are one of the best, if not the best team in the league right now," Terry Stotts said. "I liked the way we came back after the way we played against Orlando. I think it showed some of our resolve and our resiliency."

    Lillard, coming off his worst shooting performance as a pro in Orlando on Sunday, was on fire in Miami. He got his first two three-pointers to go and from there, Miami didn't have much of an answer defensively. Lillard was attacking the rim, getting to the line and even hitting from the midrange. He had 18 in the first half and even though the Heat tried to take him away in the second, they couldn't steer clear of Lillard later in the game either. Lillard, Wesley Matthews (20 points) and Aldridge as well as the rest of the Trail Blazers were catching fire in the second quarter and extended their lead to as much as 14. However, Miami of course made a run of their own and the Trail Blazers led by one at halftime.

    "He (Lillard) bounced back. He took big shots and carried us for a little while. Just like everyone has seen LeBron James do that, we are getting used to the rings Lillard can do," Stotts said.

    Once again, the Heat started out hot, but this time they were hotter than before. This time it was their turn to take the lead up to 14. James and the rest of the Miami Heat were hitting from everywhere. However, the Trail Blazers had to make their run as it seemed each team would take turns doing it as the night went on. The Trail Blazers closed the second half on a 15-5 run and Lillard scored the final seven points of the quarter for the Trail Blazers including a transition three to cut the Miami lead to four.

    With James out to start the fourth quarter, Portland had an opportunity to take the lead and they did. Portland's second unit and veteran bench players like Jared Jeffries, Ronnie Price and Sasha Pavlovic all logged big and productive minutes against the Heat.

    "I liked their toughness (Jeffries, Price, Pavlovic) have been in big games like this. It was a tough game and we needed some of that. I felt they were up to it," said Stotts about the veterans.

    The Trail Blazers took a five point lead early in the fourth but the game was tied by the 6:15 mark. However, after the four minute mark, the Heat turned on the afterburners, closing the game on a 16-2 run. Portland had a couple of three-pointers go in and out during that stretch and the Heat didn't let their open chances go begging.

    The Trail Blazers had a great 44 minutes where they were step-for-step with Miami, but despite the heroics of Lillard, Aldridge, Matthews and their veterans, they couldn't keep up with James, Bosh (32 points) and Wade (24 points).

    "It's obviously disappointing to come up with a loss but we lost to a great team," Stotts said.

    "One of the positives to take away is that we can play with anyone in the league," Aldridge said. He added that the Trail Blazers have to "take care of the ball down the stretch."

    Lillard was steadfast in his believe that this team can play like this on a nightly basis. They will certainly need to bounce back from this to take care of business tomorrow in New Orleans. Because despite going 1-4 in their first five games of the trip, the Trail Blazers are still very much in the thick of things as far as the playoffs are concerned.

    "For any team in the league, it's easy to get up for the Miami Heat. It's team that are like us, the middle of the pack teams that are trying to scratch and claw their way to the playoffs, which we have to be able to play with that same edge and consistency. I think we're capable of it. We just need to find it in ourselves."

    The Trail Blazers move onto the Big Easy tomorrow to face the Hornets (18-34). It will be the team's final game before the All-Star break. That game will begin at 5PM and be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM. 

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