As Trail Blazers games often do, Thursday’s battle on the hardwood between Portland and the Miami Heat came down to the final moments.
The Blazers rallied back from an 11-point deficit to take the 111-110 lead with 3:48 to go. From there, both teams exchanged baskets. Derrick Jones Jr. lit into his former squad with a dunk from McCollum with 13.9 seconds left, drew a foul and Portland took a 122-120 lead.
But Bam Adebayo responded with a layup on the other end and the ball was in Damian Lillard’s hands as the clock ticked down.
The Trail Blazers All-Star was fouled by Trevor Ariza as he launched a three with one second left on the clock, and Lillard, one of the clutchest players in the game, bucketed all three to give Portland the 125-122 victory at AmericanAirlines Arena.
It was an unsettling finish for Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who didn’t believe Lillard was fouled on the play. Because of the whistle from referee Brian Forte, the Heat were unable to challenge due to lack of a timeout.
“That’s one of those plays that we’re going to disagree no matter how many times we talk about it,” Spoelstra said. “It is what it is. Brian saw it one way, we see it another way. I think it was a great game. Kind of a buzzkill way to end it. I think everybody wanted to see overtime. Lillard’s also a great player. He puts a lot of pressure on you 10 feet out, at the three-point line, he draws fouls. He’s clever...
While Damian Lillard was the closer for Portland, finishing the game with 22 points, CJ McCollum was the star. At the end of the first quarter, McCollum had dropped 21 points on 80% FG shooting, and 66% 3-point shooting. The Trail Blazers guard finished with 35 points in the game.
“I want him to be the best version of himself,” McCollum said of Lillard during his walk-off interview on NBA on TNT. “That means sometimes I might have it going, but he’s the closer. You know what I’m saying? The ball was in his hands down the stretch, I had no problem with it win or lose. I understand the work he puts in and he understands the work I put in, and we continue to empower each other.”
With Portland’s backcourt in full-season grind, the Blazers will look to get another reinforcement back on Friday as the Trail Blazers welcome back Jusuf Nurkic, who is set to make his return to the lineup for the first time since Jan. 14.
Next up, the Blazers head to Orlando to take on the Magic at 5:00 p.m. PT.