The Portland Trail Blazers are coming off a win against the Detroit Pistons, and it was just the kind of heat check win that the Blazers needed.
Prior to the Detroit game, the Blazers lost several big games to big name teams like the Los Angeles Clippers, Utah Jazz, Milwaukee Bucks, and Brooklyn Nets.
Except for the Bucks game, these losses fell on the shoulder of Damian Lillard, who was unexpectedly awful in the shooting department:
- 2-of-14 vs the Clippers
- 8-of-21 vs the Jazz
- 5-of-17 vs the Nets
Dame was a bit better against the Pistons (27 points on 9-of-20 shooting), and the Blazers got a 15-point win. It also helped that Enes Kanter channeled his inner Wilt Chamberlain by scoring 24 points and grabbing a franchise-record 30 rebounds.
The Miami Heat, on the other side of the fence, have been winners of five of their last six games. In that stretch, Jimmy Butler was in early playoff Jimmy form, averaging 23.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game.
The last time the Blazers and the Heat met in late March, Butler didn’t suit up. Neither did the Heat’s Goran Dragic and Kelly Olynyk. Portland missed Jusuf Nurkic and didn’t have the services of Norm Powell yet.
What came out of that matchup was a huge Bam Adebayo game (29 points); a huge, huge CJ McCollum game (35 points); and an odd finish. With the ballgame tied at 122, Lillard was fouled attempting a stepback 3 with a second left.
Lillard hit three free throws, no problem, and that was that. Dame Time came at the best time, helping Portland forget he shot 6-of-19 from the field and 2-of-8 from 3 before the game-winning free throws.
How the Blazers spend their remaining regular season hours highly depends on Dame Time, we know that as a fact, but his supporting cast need their moments too. From Kanter to McCollum to Nurkic to Powell, everyone will have to contribute precious minutes.
Miami is similarly leaning on Butler and Adebayo, but Heat Culture will only truly thrive if Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro, Dragic, and new hire Victor Oladipo catch fire, like they did in a win against the Los Angeles Lakers. Oladipo, however, will be unavailable for the Heat’s four-game West Coast road trip as he gets his knee evaluated.
These two teams thrive on resiliency and both are trying to escape the quicksand that is the ultra competitive play-in tournament of their respective conferences. Expect to see urgency in every game moving forward.
The Heat and the Trail Blazers will battle at 10:00 AM on NBA TV Philippines.