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Portland Trail Blazers Get Creamed by Miami

The Portland Trailblazers are on the fringe of the playoffs right now, but they have to play more consistently if they want to make it in. They have won only five of their last seventeen games, but they’re still the ninth team in the Western Conference. Many of those losses came against bottom feeders like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Wizards and Orlando Magic, all inexcusable losses. However, they can be forgiven for running into the buzz saw that is LeBron James on Tuesday night.

The Trailblazers played the Heat hard, despite ultimately losing 117-104. They had a 14-point lead late in the game, and got strong performances from rookie point guard Damian Lillard (33 points), LaMarcus Aldridge (29 points) and Wesley Matthews (20 points). However, they were powerless to stop the freight train that has become LeBron James’ shooting hot streak. The win over Portland marked the sixth straight game that James has shot at least 60 percent from the field while scoring 30 points, the only time in NBA history that that has happened. The Heat were 11-point favorites, typically an improbable cover, but they got the job done on their home court.

“I’m at a loss for words,” James said afterward. “Like I say over and over, I know the history of the game. I know how many unbelievable players who came through the ranks, who paved the way for me and my teammates. And for me to be in the record books by myself with such a stat — any stat — it’s big-time.”

However, Portland played Miami tight, and even led 59-58 at halftime. Most of the offensive output in the first half came during wild scoring surges between James and Aldridge, who at one point went on a personal 13-0 scoring binge. However, the Blazers were powerless to stop the Heat down the stretch, ultimately dropping the game and failing to cover the spread.

“I thought it was a good effort by our team,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “Miami’s one of the best if not the best team in the league right now and they are playing at a high level. We matched it for about 44 minutes.”

Despite the loss, the Blazers showed flashes of brilliance, and why they’re still in the discussion for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Rookie point guard Damian Lillard has been simply sensational this season; his 33-point outburst against Miami was his 25th game this season scoring over 20 points. There is no other rookie in the league who has done that more than eight times. Lillard is a virtual lock to win Rookie of the Year, though he caught a glimpse of a higher plane of basketball playing on Tuesday night.

“I thought one of the biggest differences were the 50-50 balls,” Lillard said. “A few went their way. And they made us pay… That was typical Miami Heat stuff. Transition, finishing strong around the rim, and LeBron picking defenses apart.”

The Blazers seem to be perennially caught in the middle of the NBA pack. They’re too good to tank and get a high lottery pick, but not good enough to make any serious push in the playoffs. That perception of them has only been strengthened by the LaMarcus Aldridge trade rumors circulating the web right now. However, they have a very young and very talented core of players, and while they may not make the playoffs (they’re currently 100/1 odds to win the West and 250/1 odds to win the title), they have to be encouraged by performances like the one on Tuesday against the Heat.

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