For three quarters, Portland played uninspired basketball against Chris Bosh and company, conceding runouts off live ball turnovers, failing to execute anything offensively and letting Bosh do anything he wanted in the post and on spot-ups. Fortunately, quality defense (wut?) in terms of packing the paint against the drives of Wade and James, along with some profligate finishing once at the cup, left Portland within striking distance down the stretch. And strike they did. Led by the whirling dervish energy of Nicolas Batum the Blazers scrambled the Heat’s offense and found enough execution to eventually tie the game on Nic’s coast-to-coast and-1. In a thrilling last two minutes, Wesley Matthews drilled two threes (one to tie the game off a brilliant set play, wide open in the corner, the other a highly contested jack in Ray Allen’s face to give the Blazers the lead. A missed 3 later and the Blazers had stolen it, having been soundly outplayed for 44 minutes the rope-a-dope act worked again.
Things I liked
Nicolas Batum: What can you say? I guess you can say he doesn’t bring it every night like this, but even LeBron wasn’t close to his level tonight. He made a difference on nearly every single play, even providing the key dime to Matthews on the game tying 3. His length and help instincts seemed to bother the Heat’s drivers and he was a key cog in holding Wade to an unproductive evening.
Defense on drives: Portland did a nice job collapsing on Miami’s drives and forcing LeBron to kick out to three point shooters. This is a strategy that will kill teams on many nights but fortunately Miami was just 31.6% from deep. You can’t always pick a strategy that will always work, you have to use the one that will give you a chance, and tonight the commitment to clogging the paint paid off.
One and done: The Heat are trending away from smallball presumably in an effort to clean the boards more effectively, but at least on one end of the floor this didn’t matter as Miami rebounded just 19% of its own misses on the night. So long as the Heat are playing Haslem and Anthony they need to get offensive rebounds or they are big negatives on that end, the Blazers did a good job both eliminating that aspect from Miami’s game and taking advantage of those front court players being inert on offense by swarming to the ball.
JJ Hickson: He was terrible.
That’s all, I’m not going to say anything else was bad in such a feel good win. On to Golden State.