Heat Get Ripped In Portland


If the Miami Heat are going to make a move in the East, Thursday’s game wasn’t the way to start.

The Heat fell to the Portland Trail Blazers 99-83, in the first of their five games out west. The loss drops Miami to 15—21, while the win brings Portland’s record to 28-8. The Heat, clinging to the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, are kicking off a road trip that kind of has a “Make or Break” vibe to it, as anything worse than 2-3 on the trip might be a disaster.

Dwyane Wade led the Heat with 23 points, while grabbing 7 rebounds. He was very effective in the first half, scoring 15 points, on 6 for 13 shooting, before slumping to the finish. He left the game in late in the third, but would come back. Unfortunately, he looked out of sorts the rest of the way. Chris Bosh would chip in 18 points, but struggled with his shot (5 for 16).

LaMarcus Aldridge led all players with 24 points and 12 rebounds, as he had his way with Miami’s bigs out on the perimeter, while being very aggressive on the glass. Damian Lillard continues to be a nightmare for opposing defense, scoring 16 points, and Wesley Matthews contributed 18 points in the Portland win.

Things that pleased me: It might be too late to get him to the All-Star Game, but Hassan Whiteside has been playing exceptional as of late. On Thursday, Whiteside went for 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 blocks, as he continues to do things that a Heat center hasn’t done since Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning were around, which is basically anything a center would actually do. In the second quarter, Whiteside scored 6 points in the second quarter, as the Heat outscored the Blazers 19-13 when he was on the court. And he catches the ball in traffic! He’s like the Anti-Joel Anthony!

Things that annoyed me:  These third quarters have become the bane of this Heat season. Portland outscored Miami 33-16 in the third, which was 10 points less than what they scored in the entire first half. After shooting just 38.8% in the first half, Portland was lights out, shooting 59.1% in the third, and hit 3 of their 4 three-pointers. But the Blazers came out of the locker room strong, with a 10-2 run to take the lead. Whenever a team seems to make that quick run, the Heat have no idea how to combat that.

After making a concentrated effort to get into the paint in the first half, the Heat made a concentrated effort to stay out of it in the third quarter. Luol Deng’s three-pointer at the 5:09 mark of the third was the Heat’s only made shot outside the paint, as they missed their other six shots.

To think the Heat haven’t played since Sunday, that getting to the root of whatever the issues are with continuously coming out of the half flat would have been something that would be addressed, yet here we are still talking about it.

Things that perplexed me: At the heart of the defense’s collapse was Chris Andersen. The moment he replaced Whiteside in the second, Portland immediately went on a 6-0 run to chop the lead down to four. To make matter worse, Chris Kaman – of all people – absolutely had his way with Birdman in the third quarter. Kaman scored 6 points and had 4 rebounds in the quarter, as Andersen did his best to help Kaman’s non-existent bid to become an All-Star.

I get why Erik Spoelstra doesn’t want to extend Whiteside to 20-25 minutes per game, as he is still raw. But when Andersen is getting his feathers plucked on national television by CHRIS FREAKING KAMAN, you’d think maybe it might be worth giving the kid an extended shot, considering the Heat’s best stretch of the game came when Whiteside was out there. He at least gives the Heat something that Andersen can’t – an interior presence.

Scale of 1 to 10, how bad did I want to throw a lamp because of Norrio Colmers? 7. We’re better off just combining the two, as their performances are all but identical at this point. They combined for 12 points and 5 assists, while making as little an impact as possible in this game.

Much like Whiteside, one has to think how bad Shabazz Napier has been in practice and/or his habits that seem to annoy Spoelstra so much that he won’t give Napier some run. He can’t be any worse than whatever Cole and Chalmers produce on a nightly basis, so taking the training wheels off of Napier can’t be a terrible idea.

What we’ve learned: Somewhere, deep in the recesses of the collective embodiment of this Miami Heat team, lies a good team. They’ve shown flashes of how well they can play, usually in the first half of games, when they move the ball around, get into the paint, and actually focus on defense.

Sadly, the reality is the current mess we’ve seen for 36 games appears to be all we’re going to get, unless changes are made. With the rumors of the Grizzlies sniffing around for Deng, one might think a roster change might be coming.

Or maybe it’s just time for Spoelstra to throw caution to the wind and take some chances with his rotations, giving his youngsters a chance to display what they can do. Loyalty to veterans can only take a team so far.

The Heat don’t play again until Sunday’s matinee in Los Angles with the Clippers. Maybe the next few days will give Spoelstra a chance to consider take a risk.