Lillard's 49 carry Blazers past Heat
(TSX / STATS) -- MIAMI -- There is a limited amount of room on the shoulders of Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, but on Sunday night it sure looked as though he took his entire team on a joy ride.
Lillard made as many 3-pointers as the entire Miami Heat team in a 115-104 win on Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena. He made 12 free throws - one fewer than the Heat. And his season-high 49 points were just four fewer than the entire Heat starting lineup.
Despite playing on consecutive nights, Lillard made 14 of 21 shots from the floor, including 9 of 12 3-pointers. His nine 3-pointers matched the output of the entire Heat team, and Lillard was also 12 of 12 on free throws.
"That was one incredible performance," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "There may be less than five players in this league that you have to do something different on your pick-and-roll coverage. Lillard is one of those guys.
"Once he got going, there haven't been many shooting performances like that in the league this year. He was outstanding."
It was Lillard's 13th game this season with 30 or more points and his fourth with 40 or more. He started the night seventh in the league in scoring with an average of 26.5 points.
By quarters, Lillard had, in order, 15, six, 12 and 16 points.
Lillard got help from Jusuf Nurkic, who had 21 points and 12 rebounds. C.J. McCollum added 18 points as the Trail Blazers (32-37) won their third game in a row and are now one game behind the idle Denver Nuggets for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference.
The Blazers, who are 8-2 in March, completed a 4-1 road trip. The best game of the trip was a win over the San Antonio Spurs, and the worst was a 23-point blowout loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
"We think about the one in New Orleans where we laid an egg," Lillard said when asked about the trip. "We wish we could have that one back. But maybe if that doesn't happen we don't have the same urgency.
"This was a huge trip -- our best of the year and probably our best streak of the year."
Miami (34-36) failed in its first bid to even its record after a dismal 11-30 start. The Heat, 23-6 in their past 29 games, fell from seventh to ninth place in the Eastern Conference.
James Johnson came off Miami's bench to produce 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Center Hassan Whiteside had 17 points and 10 rebounds for his 12th straight double-double. Goran Dragic also had 17 points.
Whiteside, who scored Miami's first 10 points but was then held down due to foul trouble, did not agree with the calls.
"I played defense the same way I always do," said Whiteside, who got hit with his fifth foul in the fourth quarter and played a total of 31 minutes. "The (refs) thought those were fouls, I guess."
Portland led 52-51 in a first half that included eight lead changes and four ties. The Blazers extended their lead to 85-79 in the third quarter, shooting 70.6 percent from the floor while committing zero turnovers. And Lillard's 16 fourth-quarter points were twice as much as Miami's entire starting lineup combined.
Blazers coach Terry Stotts said his team played with an "edge," and he hopes his players remain razor sharp during their final 13 games, 10 of which are at home.
"Being at home doesn't guarantee anything," Stotts said. "Certainly, it's an advantage, but we can't let down our guard."
As long as they have their shooting guard, that should not be a problem.
NOTES: Heat G Dion Waiters, who is averaging 15.8 points and 4.3 assists, missed the game and said his left ankle, which he sprained on Friday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves, is more severely hurt than when he missed three games earlier this season. Waiters, on crutches, cannot put weight on his ankle and is hoping he can return before the end of the regular season. ... Portland is in good shape with injuries other than F Ed Davis (shoulder) and C Festus Ezeli (knee), who were long ago ruled out for the season. ... Portland returns home to open a three-game homestand on Tuesday against the Milwaukee Bucks. ... Miami has two games left on its five-game homestand: Tuesday against the Phoenix Suns and Thursday against the Toronto Raptors.
Updated March 19, 2017