'Big Two' Blow Through Rose Garden
There is one very good piece of news that came to mind as Thursday night's game ended at the Rose Garden- we only have to deal with this team once this season.
The Miami Heat, who had to storm from behind to beat the Blazers in Portland last season, came in even more prepared, and more determined to make a statement this time. No comeback was necessary, as they built a 25-point lead over the Blazers, held off a minor rally in the fourth quarter, and won the game 107-93.
Chris Bosh didn't play for the Heat, and at this point I don't think he'd need to play again this season for Miami to still accomplish its goals. Surround Dwayne Wade and LeBron James with just a few other players who can grab a few loose balls, hit the occasional three pointer, and work hard on defense, and that's all you need.
Playing their first game after the all-star break, and wanting to set a tone for the second half of the season, the Heat won their ninth-consecutive game (all by double figures). LeBron had 38 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists, in yet another brilliant performance at the Rose Garden, where he averages over 30 points per game. Wade was just as good, scoring 33 points, and dishing out 10 assists.
I, like many others, have been caught up in this debate about who stands out among the elite teams in the NBA. For me, considering this recent Miami run, there is no debate. Chicago will make it slightly interesting in the Eastern Conference Finals, but they don't appear to be a match for a healthy and motivated Heat team. And, at this point, I don't care who comes out of the west, they won't beat Miami.
As many have said, if the Heat do stay even moderately healthy, and do win the title this year, watch out. This group has dynasty written all over it. Just ask Scottie Pippen, who had a courtside seat for this one in Portland.
As impressive as Miami is offensively, they are better at the defensive end of the floor. Their rotation on defense, and the speed in which they cover and adjust, is a thing of beauty. It's a machine. Then, they turn it over to James or Wade, take your pick, get a bucket, and then get set on defense again.
Here's the amazing thing- I don't think Portland played a bad game. The Blazers shot 47 percent, and had 21 assists on their 36 makes. They got 20 from Aldridge, 18 from Crawford, and 17 from Batum. But, they brought a knife to a gunfight. Yes, they did toss a solid rally at the Heat, and cut the lead to 10 midway through the fourth, but the outcome was never in doubt.
Miami is now 28-7, and is probably actually better than its record indicates. Scary thought.
For the Trail Blazers, they now sit at 18-18, and are about to enter an absolutely brutal stretch of the schedule. You don't want to toss out the term "must win" with 30 games left, but that's what they face heading into Saturday's game against Minnesota, and even Monday's against New Orleans. After those two, it's a monster 7-game, 13-day road trip that is frightening to consider at this point.
A quick recap of this game wouldn't be complete without mentioning Joel Przybilla. The Blazers didn't want to activate him until Saturday, but due to Kurt Thomas' concussion at Denver, Przybilla was pressed into action in this game. He looked very good, considering he hadn't played a game in a year. He had four points, six rebounds, two blocks, and isn't even in game shape. His presence, and what he could mean to this team, is reason enough to keep the faith.
But, this was a night when Portland faced a motivated Miami team, showing a national TV audience it is indeed in a category of one, and it simply would have taken more than Portland currently has.