Blazers make a stand but again fall short

PORTLAND — Someone had to step up.

Portland Trail Blazers starting forward LaMarcus Aldridge was out of the lineup with a knee bruise. The Blazers were coming off two nasty, disappointing defeats. And Portland coach Nate McMillan was pleading for energy, heart and scrappy play from his team, heading into the Blazers’ contest Tuesday night against the Miami Heat at the Rose Garden.

McMillan got what he wanted. And Portland big men Juwan Howard and Greg Oden stepped up.

But even that was not enough, as a shorthanded Blazers squad fell to the Heat, 107-100, before a sold-out crowd of 20,417.

Portland has now lost a season-high three consecutive games, and the Blazers have been outscored by an average of 11 points during the stretch.

“The only way we are going to get out of this is if we work our way out of it and we work our way out of it together,” McMillan said.

Brandon Roy scored a team-high 25 points to lead Portland (12-8), while Oden recorded 13 points and a career-high 20 rebounds, including 11 offensive, tying a franchise record. Andre Miller added 18 points and Howard contributed a season-high 14.

Michael Beasley collected a game- and season-high 27 points and eight rebounds to top the Heat (10-7), while Dwyane Wade added 22 points and Quentin Richardson recorded 20.

“It was a good step forward,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said.

With Aldridge out, rookie forward Dante Cunningham recorded his first NBA start.

Cunningham looked strong at times and lost at others. But his energetic effort showed promise. And his six points and five rebounds were essential for a Portland team playing without four injured forwards — Aldridge, Travis Outlaw, Nicolas Batum and Jeff Pendergraph.

“We’ve got the guys we have, and we’ve got to go with what we have,” McMillan said.

However, it was a game in which everything had to work for the Blazers. And, again, that did not come close to happening.

Off nights for Martell Webster (4-of-14 shooting) and Rudy Fernandez (two points) hurt Portland’s chances. The Blazers’ 39.1 percent (34 of 87) shooting from the field did not help. And the closest Portland came to catching Miami was a 50-46 deficit with 2 minutes, 58 seconds left in the second quarter.

“We don’t have everybody shooting well,” McMillan said. “We have one or two guys maybe knocking down some shots, and a couple of guys not knocking down shots.”

In addition, bright spots such as Oden flickered and dimmed at times. Oden often dominated the interior when he touched the ball. And his six points and five rebounds during the third quarter gave Portland new life. But the Blazers center was largely ignored by his team’s offense during the first half. And his consistent tendency to pick up quick fouls — he recorded two in the game’s first three minutes — hurt his cause.

“It’s not just me. It’s everybody,” Oden said. “I’d definitely like to put all the blame on myself. But we win as a team, we lose as a team. And when I’m not in there, other guys take over. It’s not just if I’m in the game or not.

“And I’m not meaning that in any bad way; I don’t want nobody turning that in a bad way. I’m just saying, it’s all of us going in. And we all need to click.”

The Blazers did not click early.

Miami jumped out to a 11-3 lead, led by sharp shooting from Wade.

And while the Heat initially soared, the Blazers fell flat. Roy was the only Blazer able to produce on the offensive end, and his team looked slow and hesitant.

But Portland received a boost from the insertion of Howard, who recorded 12 first-half points on 5-of-5 shooting.

Miller, a reserve point guard, lifted Portland even higher. Miller synched up well with Howard, Oden and Roy. And he keyed a 12-6 Blazers run that pulled Portland within 44-42 midway through the second quarter.

But while the Blazers’ offense played with smooth rhythm, the team’s defense fell short.

Beasley poured in 18 first-half points. And as Miami connected on 56 percent (21 of 37) of its first-half field-goal attempts, the Heat took a 60-50 advantage into halftime.

“We dug ourselves a hole and we can’t get close enough and get stops,” McMillan said.
“That’s definitely something we haven’t done well in the last three games.”

Beasley kept his soft touch during the second half. And as Miami gunned down an undermanned Blazers squad, Portland’s inspired effort failed to make a mark.

“We’re going to go to work tomorrow and try to figure it out,” Oden said. “Right now, I think everybody needs to get their head straight and chill out.”

Best Blazer: Greg Oden pulled down a career-high 20 rebounds and added 13 points.
Big numbers: Portland shot just 39.1 percent (34 of 87) from the field.

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