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Trail Blazers 110, Heat 107: Late Surge Masks Lingering Turnover Problems
The Blazers stole a game in Miami, but the turnovers are still a concern.
You never have to say you're sorry after a win. Let's start there.
The top-line story from the Trail Blazers' Monday night win over the Heat will be Josh Hart's buzzer-beating corner three, their second buzzer-beater in three games thus far in this road trip. It was the culmination of a fourth-quarter comeback that included a damn good all-around coaching job by Chauncey Billups.
Billups recognized, as he did in the season opener against Sacramento, that the small lineup with Justise Winslow at center was a better matchup for Bam Adebayo than Jusuf Nurkic was. He then made the call to challenge a foul called against Anfernee Simons with 11 seconds left that got overturned. And he trusted Damian Lillard to get the ball down the floor to set up that Hart three rather than call a timeout to draw up a play on the final possession.
The fight and the heart will be what people remember, along with another group interview after the game. A road win against a playoff team, especially one that's already beaten them this season, is something they'll take however they can get it.
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Still, the turnovers.
Portland outshot and outrebounded Miami, and defensively weathered a three-point barrage by the Heat in the second quarter to keep themselves enough within range to mount a comeback. If they had lost, the story would have been the turnovers. They didn't, so it's not. But the issue remains.
As they've been in other games this season, the Blazers' turnovers are often of the self-inflicted variety. Travels, lazy passes into a group of Heat defenders, over-passing and taking too long to make a decision resulting in a 24-second violation. That was all on display in the first three quarters, and remains the single biggest thing this team needs to clean up.
But they won, and moved to 2-1 on the road trip and 7-3 on the season. There's only so much apologizing to do for that.
Lillard and Simons both returned to the lineup after missing the first two games of the road trip (and in Lillard's case, the last two home games before that as well). Simons led all scorers with 25 points; Lillard didn't shoot well and had four turnovers but moved well and didn't appear physically affected by the calf injury that kept him out the last four games. Both of them should be happy they have a game against the 3-8 Hornets coming up next to work out the rust. It's the one break from playoff teams on this trip.
Only 12 minutes for Shaedon Sharpe, but he scored five points and only made one costly turnover. You can see the minutes crunch coming across the board—Keon Johnson found himself out of the rotation again, while the newly healthy Trendon Watford appears to be eating into playing time for both Nassir Little and Drew Eubanks. Too many guys isn't the worst problem to have.
Little only played seven minutes but knocked down a pair of three-pointers. He's still figuring out his role in an expanding rotation but he's been largely effective whenever he's been on the floor so far this season.
I personally loved the league's decision to stagger tonight's games by 15 minutes throughout the evening. Once this game started at 5:30, I was locked in, but I like being able to flip around different games on League Pass and not have them all hit quarter and half breaks at the same time.
I joined my friend Seth Partnow's show on the Callin app today to talk about the Blazers' hot start. You can listen to the replay here. We're going to make it a home-and-home: Seth will be my guest on the next episode of the podcast later this week.