Three players not accustomed to late-game attention, the Trail Blazer frontcourt, stood tall in the waning moments in Miami Thursday night and Portland came from behind to capture a 125-122 win over the Miami Heat.
Yes, Damian Lillard put the game away with three free throws with a second to play but Enes Kanter, Derrick Jones and Robert Covington provided the offensive firepower in the last two minutes to keep the Blazers close enough to play for the game’s final shot.
Kanter had three offensive rebounds in the final 1:55 of the game and converted them into eight points – five of them on his own shots and another three after passing to Covington for a long three.
Jones took a pass from CJ McCollum, dunked and drained the ensuing free throw to complete a three-point play with 13.9 seconds left to boost Portland to a two-point lead.
Then, after the Heat tied it, the Trail Blazers worked the clock down for Lillard, who drew a silly foul from Trevor Ariza on a three-point shot – nailing Lillard on his right arm after the ball was out of his hand.
McCollum had a terrific shooting night (14-25, 6-14 from three) and led his team with 35 points, but Coach Terry Stotts gave his three frontcourt starters plenty of credit.
“They came up big,” Stotts said. “Enes had an outstanding night. I mean, you look at the 18 points and 16 rebounds, but he's a plus-21 when he’s on the court. He just continues to do the work. Him getting a rebound and kicking it out for a three was a big play for us, obviously,
“RoCo had a big shot. And we played defense when we needed to the last five minutes. We were really aggressive, rebounded the ball, and offensively, we made the plays we needed to make.”
Kanter continues to pound the offensive boards, getting nine of his team’s 10 – which converted to 24 second-chance points.
Usually, it’s Lillard and McCollum doing the heavy work late in games. But not so much, this time.
“(Lillard and McCollum) know that they're going to get a lot of blitzes and they're making extra passes and they make everyone else better around them,” Kanter said,”They are very special players. And the last four or five minutes, they got a lot of attention. They made some extra passes to Melo, to RoCo or to DJ, and they did their job.”
Kanter doesn’t seem to need a pass – he just grabs the ball off the offensive board and scores.
“I think it stops (the opposition’s) fast-break points, and also give us a second chance to go out there and score the ball,” he said. “And also, you know, it's tough to just guard a team for 24 seconds and give up an offensive rebound. It really demoralizes a team, so I'm trying to do the best I can out there to just give my team a second chance.”
Portland talked about its clutch-time defense and it was respectable late, but the Heat still made 57.1 percent of their shots, including 5 of 8 three-point shots, in the fourth quarter.
Miami, coming into the game ranked 28th in three-point field-goal percentage, shot 47.1 percent from long distance for the game.