The actual game becomes meaningless after a while, given how often Miami has committed the same mistakes over and over again. If you want the details, they're easy enough...Miami played well for the first half, taking a 48-43 lead in to halftime. The team looked solid overall, with Dwyane Wade surprisingly sharp. This season's most recently-designated savior, Hassan Whiteside, was once again spectacular, providing 6 points and 4 rebounds in just 7 second-quarter minutes. And the Trail Blazers, one of the hottest shooting teams in the league, was limited from doing any damage from 3-point range.
And then the third quarter...
Again, the statistics mean very little. Damion Lillard, who appeared to have aggravated a back injury after colliding with Wade in the first half, came back determined and finished with 16 points. Chris Kaman, Portland's backup center (who started in place of the injured Robin Lopez) was, dare I say it, dominant. The Blazers started the third on a 17-3 run and outscored Miami 33-16 in the period.
Just like that it was over.
The final score, 99-83, seemed like a foregone conclusion. In fact, I started writing this well before the game actually ended, so convinced was I that Miami would not be able to mount a comeback. And the Heat players themselves seemed to suffer from the same malaise and disinterest in actually playing the game for a full 48 minutes.
It might be time to realize that the Heat is no longer interested in making a significant playoff run this season. As cliche as it might sound winning - and losing - are contagious and Miami's might be a fatal case. The third quarter was a sloppy and familiar mess, with shots not falling and defense being simply a rumor at best. As Kaman managed to work his way past either Chris Bosh or Chris Andersen, both Heat players often stood staring at each other as if expecting the other to magically help, as they have failed to do all year long. Luol Deng, the subject of recent trade rumors, was once again a non-factor (7 points, 3-of-11 shooting). At one point Deng, with nary a defender in sight, grabbed a rebound on a Trail Blazer miss, and the ball simply slipped through his hands, something I'm sure I've seen him do several times before in Miami.
But even if the players deserve most of the blame for the team's collapse, head coach Erik Spoelstra questionably held out Whiteside during Portland's third-quarter run. As #HeatTwitter yelled simultaneously in 140 characters or less, "PUT IN WHITESIDE!," Spoelstra continued to leave an ineffective Andersen in the game, only to watch (and I can't believe I'm writing this) as Kaman scored easily in the low post. One assumed that perhaps that Spo may have been waiting for a break in the game but, even after a timeout, Whiteside - the lone bright spot for Miami - remained on the bench even as Danny Granger (3 points, 1-of-4 FGA) went into the game.
Even Wade, who had appeared refreshed with several days of rest, seemed to break down at some point. Toward the end of the third, decisive quarter, he walked to the locker room without any explanation. While he did come back minutes later, he wasn't the same, putting up some horrible shots (one fade-away jumper missed the backboard completely, sailing helplessly out of bounds) and getting torched by the underrated Wesley Matthews (18 points).
The timing of yet another lackluster showing by the Heat is worth noting in that many expect this road trip to be a pivotal point in the season. The recently-concluded homestand was a disaster but, perhaps foolishly, some believed that Miami would be able to rally away from the unfriendly confines of AmericanAirlines Arena and find a way to win consistently. In that sense, tonight's game at Portland was an opportunity to prove that there was still a reason to continue winning and perhaps be a dark horse threat in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Instead, it seems more likely that Deng - touted by Pat Riley as one of the most important free agent signings in Heat history - is likely playing his last few games in a Miami uniform. That Wade and Bosh, still capable scorers and certainly All-Stars, are wasting productive years on lottery-bound team. And if there is a reason to watch this season, it just might be the exciting development of Whiteside.
In the meantime, this team will continue going through the motions, doing just enough to give you false hope that they'll turn it around this season. They next play on Sunday afternoon at the Staples Center, where they'll face the L.A. Clippers.