----- Damian Lillard scores 49 points as the Portland Trail Blazers finish up their five-game road trip at 4-1 with a 115-104 win over the Miami Heat Sunday in Miami. The win pulls the Blazers to within one-game of the Denver Nuggets for the final playoff spot in the West.
#LillardTime usually comes in the fourth quarter, but lately Damian Lillard has been leading his team to fast starts after the opening tip. One day after scoring 13 of his 27 points in the first quarter in the Blazers 113-97 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, Lillard opened up Sunday in Miami by dropping 15 points in the first quarter helping the Blazers overcome an early 20-12 deficit. Dame had 21 points at halftime and finished the night with a game-high 49 points tying the franchise record he set for threes in a game with nine.
After a close first half with the Blazers leading by a point at 52-51, Portland opened up their lead at the start of the third quarter with an 8-1 run as they never trailed in the second half. Trailing 85-79 entering the fourth quarter, the Heat closed the Blazers lead to one at 87-86 with 9:29 remaining. Lillard would make his return to score five-straight points on a three-pointer and a floater to give the Blazers a cushion.
Late in the fourth, the Blazers started using Jusuf Nurkic in the pick and roll and it paid off. Nurkic scored 10 points and 4 rebounds in the final quarter to help the Blazers finish off the Heat. With the win, Portland improved to 4-1 on their five-game road trip and pulled to within one-game of the Denver Nuggets for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. 10 of the Trail Blazers final 13 games will be at home starting with the Milwaukee Bucks Tuesday night at the Moda Center.
Portland (32-27) shot 50.6% from the field and 50% from three-point range on 13-for-26 shooting. Nurkic finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds, CJ McCollum scored 18 points and Noah Vonleh scored 11 points and 7 rebounds.
Miami (34-36) was led by James Johnson who scored 24 points off the bench. Goran Gragic and Hassan Whiteside each scored 17 points.
Chad's Take- Damian Lillard was sensational against the Heat. He once again got off to a quick start today with 15 points in the first quarter and he gave the Blazers a boost in the fourth when the Heat made their run. The real weapon the Blazers have now is the pick and roll with Nurkic. The Bosnian Beats scored 10 points and 4 rebounds in the fourth quarter and provided muscle in the paint against Hassan Whiteside. The presence of Nurkic has given everyone a life including Noah Vonleh, Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, and both Lillard and McCollum. With 10 of their final 13 games at home, the Blazers are in perfect position to pass the Nuggets for the 8th and final playoff spot in the West. If they compete on both ends like they did on this five-game road trip, they should be able to accomplish their mission. #NurkicFever