The Blazers' surprising season continued as they improved to 20-15 overall and seventh place in the Western Conference—one-half game behind the Houston Rockets (21-15) for sixth. Portland won its ninth game in a row on its home court, earned its fourth straight victory and moved to 5-1 in January.
The Blazers are 12-3 over their past 15 games and are making a solid case for a playoff spot—something no one expected heading into the season.
Most surprisingly, LeBron James had his streak of 20-plus point games snapped at 33 games, falling short of George Gervin's record of 45 games. It was a stunning development, as James had always torched the Rose Garden, averaging 31.2 points per game over his career in Portland (via Mike Tokito of The Oregonian).
Here are the grades, breakdown and analysis of another Blazers' victory.
Player of the Game
Nicolas Batum: 28 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals, 8-15 FG
Batum has justified every bit of his $45 million contract signed this past offseason, averaging career-highs in points (16.6), rebounds (5.6), assists (4.5), steals (1.5) and free-throw percentage (87.1).
The fifth-year forward scored 16 of his team-high 28 points in the second half, leading a fourth-quarter comeback, as Miami led by as many as 12 at 80-68 with 8:08 left in the game.
His three-point play with 4:03 left was a huge momentum swinger in the final quarter.
Key Moment of the Game
The Heat led 88-85 with 1:05 remaining until Wesley Matthews nailed a three-pointer from the corner to tie the game at 88.
After Chris Bosh pushed Miami's lead back to 90-88, Matthews sank another three-pointer with 26 seconds left to give the Blazers a 91-90 lead.
The Heat failed to convert as Ray Allen missed a jumper, and Mario Chalmers clanked a game-winning three-point attempt at the buzzer.
It wasn't one of Damian Lillard's best games, as he totaled 10 points, eight assists and three rebounds.
Fortunately, the Blazers did not need him to be at his best, since the Heat's defense was not going to allow Lillard to beat them.
Tweets of the Night
Big win!!!!! #RipCity
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) January 10, 2013
— Joe Freeman (@BlazerFreeman) January 10, 2013
What They Said
"Our confidence is extremely high," Matthews said. "Playing hard, playing well, we're having fun out there. So that's a great combination." (via ESPN.com)
"We understand that it hurts right now," said James. "We played good enough to win, but not great enough to win." (via ESPN.com)
“I don’t know if it has context right now,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “Maybe in a couple weeks, maybe in a couple months, it will have some context. Right now, it’s about a team that’s growing together, finding ways to win games, defending home court. I think it’s just a continuation of what we’ve been trying to build.” (via Joe Freeman of The Oregonian)
“It’s fun this year,’’ said Batum. “Last year, it really wasn’t that fun. And the best part about it is, we will have this same team for a while. It feels like I have finally found a team, a team that can stay together.’’ (via Jason Quick of The Oregonian)
“We played good enough to win,” James said. “You give your hats off to them…they made enough plays.” (via Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald)
Final Grade: B+
LeBron has had success in Portland throughout his career, entering the game with a 6-3 record at the Rose Garden including winning in his last five appearances. It was the Blazers' first win over LeBron at home since Jan. 17, 2007 in a 94-76 victory over his Cavaliers.
James had a subpar game by his standards, and the Blazers capitalized by rallying down the stretch for arguably their biggest win of the season.
The Blazers' bench added just eight points, but big games by Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge (20 points and 15 rebounds) and Wesley Matthews (18 points) were enough to pull out the upset.
Up next: @ Golden State, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Portland will play the second of a back-to-back against a surprising Warriors team that is 22-12 overall and fifth tin the Western Conference.
The Warriors have lost two in a row but should be well-rested, having played just one game over the last five days.
Oracle Arena has always been a nightmare for the Blazers. It will mark Lillard's debut playing in his hometown of Oakland so expect him to want to impress.
Stephen Curry (20.2 ppg) and David Lee (19.7 ppg) are having All-Star-type seasons, and former Blazer Jarrett Jack (11.9 ppg and 5.0 apg) has provided a steady influence for the Warriors.
Do the Blazers have enough in the tank after their starters played 40-plus minutes against the Heat? We'll see.