On the same night the Miami Heat clinched a playoff berth (with a Chicago Bulls loss) they got hammered by the Portland Trail Blazers, 110-93. With Dwyane Wade continuing to nurse a sore neck and back, the Heat just couldn't get it going tonight as the Blazers cruised to pick up their seventh straight victory at home.
After going up 22-20 after the first quarter, the Heat fell apart in the second quarter. Hassan Whiteside looked active early, blocking three shots in two minutes, but the Blazers opened the second quarter on a 13-0 run. With the Heat unable to convert on a field goal for over four minutes, the Blazers extended their lead to 15 behind MVP candidate Damian Lillard.
The fifth leading scorer in the NBA led all scorers at half-time with 14 points with C.J. McCollum and Gerald Henderson in double-figures too as the Blazers led 59-42, capping off a massive 39-point second quarter.
In the second half, the Blazers would continue to light it up as McCollum portrayed why he's the favorite for the Most Improved player award. The combo guard hit several three-pointers and found his way around the paint. Whiteside, who scored eight points in the third quarter, had trouble keeping Mason Plumlee away on the defensive end as the Blazers' big man owned the paint.
Joe Johnson, Luol Deng and Goran Dragic attempted to take over Wade's role at times but turnovers and bad shooting hindered the trio on the second night of a back-to-back. On the other end, McCollum and Plumlee made it look easy as the pair led the Blazers through the fourth quarter, eventually winning it, 110-93.
Whiteside led the Heat with 20 points, 13 boards and four blocks in his 26th game off the bench but got little help elsewhere as no one else shot over 50 percent. Goran Dragic had 15 points but just one assist, his lowest mark in three months. Deng accumulated 14 points, a season-high 13 rebounds and three steals and Johnson chipped in with 13 points. Josh Richardson put up 12 points and four assists off the bench.
McCollum, who increased his scoring average from 6.8 last year to 20.7 this season, led all scorers with 24 points, seven assists and four steals on 6-of-6 three-point shooting. His backcourt mate, Lillard, added 17 points after a dominant first-half. Plumlee put up 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists and Henderson chipped with 17 points off the bench. The team shot a whopping 51.9% from the field compared to the Heat's 38.6%.
The Blazers (41-36) got their fourth straight win, the longest current winning streak in the league.
Miami(44-32), on the other hand, dropped their second game in three tries and fell from No. 3 in the East to No.6. What was supposed to be considered an easy three-game road trip against the West's weaker set of teams turned into a mess. After losing a close game in overtime against the West-worst Los Angeles Lakers, which included Wade getting hurt, the team nearly lost in Sacramento by letting a 24-point lead fall to one before getting smashed by the Trail Blazers Saturday night.
Still, the Heat will return to Miami with optimism in their head as the franchise clinched their 19th playoff berth in the team's 28 seasons and Erik Spoelstra's seventh in eight years.
The Heat take on the Detroit Pistons @ 7:30 P.M. on Tuesday.