Despite the reasons to feel dejected and remorseful after blowing a double-digit lead and giving up the game-winning shot in the final seconds, Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade stood at his locker encouraged after a 92-90 loss to the Trail Blazers Thursday night at the Rose Garden.
You can't really play (any) better, he said.
A 3-pointer by guard Wesley Matthews, which put Portland ahead 91-90 with 16 seconds remaining, was the dagger in a game that the Heat couldn't find a way to close.
Portland outscored Miami 53-38 in the second half, and the Blazers' defense on the game's final possession epitomized the wall the Heat faced down the stretch.
Matthews swarmed Heat forward LeBron James when the ball was inbounded in Portland territory with 10 seconds to go. James dished to center Chris Bosh, who was forced to pass to teammate Mario Chalmers. Chalmers took an open 3-pointer, but it clanked off the rim at the buzzer, putting into the books the Heat's first loss in Portland since 2008.
It's a tough loss; there's no doubt about it, said Erik Spoelstra, Miami coach. Our guys are definitely disappointed about that.
Seven minutes to go, we think we're taking control of the game in the fourth quarter and gaining some confidence in our defense. And then we just slipped a little bit.
For 3 1/2 quarters, the Heat played to the game plan.
They took a 52-39 lead into halftime and found a way to keep the Blazers at arm's length even after a rally late in the third quarter, during which Portland cut the deficit to five points.
However, just as in Tuesday's 87-77 road loss to the Indiana Pacers, Miami's defense was stout but its offense fluttered.
James scored three points in the second half and missed a couple of 3s late in the game that could have helped seal the win. He went 1 for 5 from beyond the arc and finished with 15 points, snapping his 33-game streak of scoring at least 20 points in a game the second longest streak to start a season since the NBA-ABA merger.
I missed shots, he said. I missed four wide-open 3s. I missed a couple of layups.
Wade didn't fare much much better against Portland's defense. After scoring a season-high 23 first-half points against Indiana and shooting 55 percent from the field over his previous 15 games, Wade was held to four points in the second half and 18 in the game.
You can always say, 'I wish I had made more shots,' but we did everything that we could and they made big shots at the end," said Wade, who was 6 for 18 from the field. "We gave ourselves a chance and we had it, but they took it from us at the end.
After going 3-4 in its previous seven games, Miami needed a win Thursday to avoid an 0-2 start to a six-game trip.
The Heat were on track to snap the streak in the first half. They dominated in the paint, outscoring Portland 32-14. They held the Blazers' bench to three points. And they shot 47 percent from the field.
But a team loaded with veterans played like rattled rookies with the game on the line.
Wade served up an uncharacteristic, ill-advised pass, which was picked off by Portland forward Nicolas Batum and laid in at the other end to tie the game at 82-82 with four minutes left. That erased what was left of a 13-point Miami lead.
Some unnecessary turnovers got momentum (for Portland) back into the game, Spoelstra said.
And when the game came down to clutch plays, Portland made more of them.
Bosh knocked down a 3 to put Miami ahead 87-84, but after a couple of possessions, Matthews hit the first of two important 3s with 50 seconds remaining, tying the game at 88-88. He stayed hot and hit the eventual game-winner less than a minute later.
We played good enough to win, said James, who finished with 10 boards and nine assists, one short of a triple-double. You give your hats off to (Portland). They made enough plays.
They made more plays at the end, and we'll take our shots at the end, Spoelstra said. It's more when you have a double-digit lead with our experience.
Standing tall at his locker, forced to face a series of what-if questions, Wade remained poised and even unconcerned about the Heat's latest skid.
A loss like this, you can't hold your head down, Wade said. They made great shots at the end. We had opportunities, and we didn't make them. We have to bring the same intensity for the next game and we'll be fine.