On second thought, perhaps those five days off were really not such a great thing for the Trail Blazers, after all. Portland players were practically giddy over the five game-free days last week -- and the first three that were practice-free.
But it took Portland three quarters to wake up from its vacation hangover Tuesday night and by the time the Blazers put together a solid effort they were too far behind and couldn't catch up, defeated by the Miami Heat 118-108 in Moda Center Tuesday night.
The Blazers had not played since a win over Utah last Wednesday and practiced only the last two days after three off-days.
They outscored Miami by 24 points from the three-point line and still never led in the game, getting hammered by the Heat’s 54.2 percent shooting, fueled by a barrage of layups and dunks that led to 56 points in the paint.
“For whatever reason, we didn’t seem to have a lot of pop for most of the game,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “I don’t know if it was the five days off or what, but it seemed pretty obvious most of the first three quarters, we just didn’t make the energy plays, whether it was transition, or defensively in the first half, or the extra-effort plays.
“We made a nice run in the second half. It was good to see but, I don’t know, I’m going to just chalk it up to the five days off and hope we bring it better on Thursday (at home vs. San Antonio).”
The Heat handled Portland with relative ease earlier in the season at Miami and Coach Erik Spoelstra was asked what his 25-27 team does against the Trail Blazers that other teams don’t do.
“I don’t know – it’s too small of a sample size,” he said. “You know, it’s only two games. We faced them in the first five games of the year and both teams are a little bit different now.
“I don’t know if anybody is going to watch our game film to try to figure it out. But we’ll take it. We needed this – probably a lot more than they did.”
Maybe, but the season is about to take a nasty turn, schedule-wise, for the Trail Blazers very soon. They have only two more home games in February and they will come in the next week.
Portland has played 30 home games up to now and just 23 on the road. That means only 11 of the final 29 will be at home.
Of particular concern is the post-All-Star Game road trip of seven games in 14 days – against some pretty good teams.
Thus, losing a home game to a team with a sub-.500 record is costly at this point for this group with sights set on a playoff run.
The Heat did a great job of stopping key Trail Blazer players. Jusuf Nurkic made just two of seven shots and played just 22:52. He had five rebounds and didn’t block a shot.
Meanwhile, his counterpart, Hassan Whiteside, made 11 of 12 shots , had 11 rebounds and two blocks.
Damian Lillard made only 5 of 15, missed eight of his 10 shots from distance scored 13 points, albeit with 10 assists.
CJ McCollum led the Trail Blazers with 33 points and made 7 of 14 from three. Jake Layman was again terrific off the bench, scoring 25 to go with eight rebounds.
Dwyane Wade had a retirement-tour highlight, potting 22 points and nine rebounds for the winners.
“From the beginning to the end, I thought we had a good stretch in the beginning of the fourth, but other than that, we just didn’t play well at either end of the floor,” Lillard said. “It’s disappointing to have an opportunity like that – two home games before we hit the road – winnable games and then we come out and just get outplayed,
“They worked harder than us tonight.”
Oh well, maybe his coach said it best:
“I’m going to just chalk it up to the five days off and hope we bring it better on Thursday.”