Damian Lillard leads late rally in Portland Trail Blazers' win over Miami Heat

By Walter Villa, The Sports Xchange  |  Dec. 14, 2017 at 12:02 AM
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MIAMI -- The Miami Heat bench players, particularly Udonis Haslem, playfully acted as if they had fainted while watching a strong first-half shooting effort by teammate Wayne Ellington.

In the second half, the Heat wilted -- for real.

C.J. McCollum scored a game-high 28 points and Damian Lillard came alive late as the Portland Trail Blazers rallied from a 16-point second-half deficit to defeat Miami 102-95 on Wednesday night at American Airlines Arena.

Lillard, who has scored more than 30 points 10 times this season, had been held to nine points through three quarters. But he finished with 18 points to help Portland (14-13) snap a season-high five-game losing streak.

"You almost hate (Lillard) having a pedestrian box score going into the fourth quarter," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Lillard, who finished the game shooting 5-of-14 from the floor. "You know he's going to put his fingerprints on the game in the fourth."

Lillard shot 2-of-8 through three quarters but had six assists. In the final seven minutes of the game, he made three free throws, two layups and one dunk ... and had no assists.

Portland coach Terry Stotts said Lillard's slow start had partly to do with Miami game-planning for him. But it also had to do with Lillard "reading the game".

"(Lillard) tried to get his teammates involved (early)," Stotts said. "When (Miami) trapped the pick and roll, he was finding the roll man.

"Then he tried to be more aggressive in the second half."

Miami (13-14) was led by Ellington, who had 24 points. He made 8-of-11 shots from the floor, including 7-of-10 on three-pointers.

"That's Wayne," Spoelstra said of Ellington, who was inserted into the game when point guard Goran Dragic picked up two fouls in the first three minutes of the game.

"Wayne is ignitable. He's going to run his patterns full speed every time as if the play is designed for him, even when he is potentially a decoy."

With a win, Spoelstra would have won his 454th game, tying team owner Pat Riley for the franchise record for coaching victories.

But given how Spoelstra's team was outscored 52-35 in the second half while shooting just 34.4 percent from the floor, his impending career milestone was hardly a concern.

Meanwhile, Portland won despite missing its top two centers. The Blazers turned to first-round pick Zach Collins, a 7-0 rookie who had nine points, three rebounds and one block in his first NBA start.

Early on, the Heat had the advantage as Ellington went 5-for-5 on first-quarter three-pointers.

Overall, Miami shot 52.2 percent from the floor in the first quarter, including 8-of-13 on three-pointers (61.5 percent). The Heat also held Portland to 43.8-percent shooting, leading to Miami's 33-21 lead.

Stotts said Portland made a key adjustment to Ellington in the second half. In essence, they didn't lose him in coverage and kept him from getting open.

"We limited him to three shot attempts in the second half," Stotts said, "and the one he made was well-contested."

That tight defense proved to be important as Portland won the second and third quarters, inching closer but still trailing 79-70 entering the fourth.

The Blazers took their first lead of the game, 89-88, at 6:10 of the fourth quarter on a three-point play by Ed Davis.

"We knew we were still in the game," Davis said after the Blazers extended their win streak in this series to four games. "We came out after halftime with that confidence and said, 'Let's chip away, chip away.'"

Davis said Portland played so poorly early that it should've been down by 20 points.

But by hanging around, the Blazers gave Lillard a shot to do his thing late.

"We had lost five in a row -- that's tough for anyone to deal with," Lillard said. "This wasn't a game where we came out, and everyone was making shots. We had to go get it."

Oregon 5-0

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NOTES: Portland is 7-5 on the road this season. Miami is 5-7 at home. ... Heat F Justise Winslow sprained his left knee in the second quarter and did not return. ... Blazers F Maurice Harkless (left quadriceps) returned after missing two consecutive games but did not score in nine minutes. ... Blazers C Myers Leonard (illness) sat out. ... Blazers C Jusuf Nurkic missed his third straight game due to an sprained right ankle. ... Heat C Hassan Whiteside (left knee) is expected to miss the rest of the month. ... Heat G Tyler Johnson sat out the game due to a migraine headache. Even though he is a reserve, Johnson is fifth on the team in scoring (10.8) and tied for fourth in assists (2.0). He is also second on the team in free throw percentage (91.5).

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