Blazers hand Heat fifth straight defeat
Erik Spoelstra vowed to keep the Miami Heat fighting. Chris Bosh acknowledged he needs to do more and lobbied to get more opportunities. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade insisted their confidence remains high.
The Heat script hasn't changed much lately.
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Nor have the results, as Miami's freefall continues.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 points, Gerald Wallace scored 22 - easily his best game since joining Portland last month - and the Trail Blazers survived a 38-point effort by Wade in beating the Heat 105-96 on Tuesday night, sending Miami to its fifth straight loss overall and sixth in eight games since the All-Star break.
''We needed that win,'' Blazers guard Andre Miller said. ''I tried to bring some energy down the stretch. It could have easily went the other way. It was back and forth a little bit, but we were able to make some big plays.''
Wade didn't have the only big night for Miami. James finished with 31 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists for the Heat, who are the 12th team in NBA history to have a 12-game winning streak and five-game losing streak in the same season.
''How do we explain it? We can't,'' James said. ''This isn't rock bottom for us. Crazy thing is, we could lose every game and still make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.''
After Wade and James, help was fleeting. Mario Chalmers scored 10, and Bosh was held to seven points on 3 for 11 shooting.
''Certainly not easy right now and frankly, we don't have a lot of answers on how to get over this hump. The only thing we can do is keep on grinding and not ... let ... go ... of ... the ... rope,'' Spoelstra said, pausing between those last words for emphasis. ''These are heartbreaking losses. Guys are putting everything they have into them.''
''Tonight, it wasn't about Miami as opposed to the challenge was to ourselves,'' Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. ''Miami is a very good team. We knew that they would come out with a sense of urgency. It was a challenge for us. We knew that if we want to become one of those elite teams we have to go out and play.''
The Blazers' bench outscored Miami's 41-8, easily enough to keep Miami's doldrums going strong.
''There's guys on the bench who can help us,'' Wade said.
And it gets no easier for the Heat: The two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, now winners of a league-high eight straight, come in on Thursday night.
In Atlanta, where the Lakers won on Tuesday, Kobe Bryant was predicting that Miami would be ready for the champs.
''It's a perfect set-up for them to get back on track,'' Bryant said. ''They have no options but to fight, but to play their hearts out. This is going to be a big challenge for us. ... They've lost five games in a row now and they're looking at this game as being the game that turns this around.''
There were moments on Tuesday when it looked as if this game would be the turnaround.
Portland wasn't going to let that happen. Whenever Miami tried making any sort of run, the Blazers had an answer.
They clamped down defensively on everybody but Wade and James, and there was a 9 1/2-minute stretch of the second half where no one in a Heat jersey besides Wade scored.
The Heat made one late run from a nine-point deficit, starting with a 3-pointer by Mike Bibby and getting within two on a dunk by James with 4:35 left, but when the Blazers were up 103-94 and running out the clock with a minute left, many of the fans who remained were booing.
''Our confidence level, me and D-Wade's confidence level being the leaders of the team, won't go down,'' James said.
Wallace and Roy are not exactly ordinary bench players, having a combined 749 starts in 902 career appearances. But with Miami's bench struggling of late anyway, that Portland duo turned the reserve battle into a one-sided fight, outscoring the Heat backups 26-5 in the first half as the Blazers took a 57-51 lead.
Miami got within two points on five occasions within a span of 5 1/2 minutes in the third quarter - with Portland answering every time, four of those scores coming on the very next possession. And after Wade opened the fourth with a dunk to tie it at 77, the Blazers peeled off the next seven, then took what was their biggest lead of the night - 89-80- on Wallace's three-point play with 6:59 left.
A comeback try ensued, and ultimately fell short - again.
''We just need more,'' Wade said.
Notes: Before this seven-game road winning streak, Portland had won seven of its last 23 away from home. ... The Heat fell to 14-17 when scoring below 100. They're 29-4 when topping it. ... McMillan signed a two-year contract extension earlier in the day. ... James has scored 25 or more points in eight straight games, one shy of the franchise record.