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Lillard’s free throws lift Blazers over Heat, 125-122

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Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro each scored 29 points.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat looked to be in good shape midway through the fourth quarter against the Portland Trail-Blazers. Though they had just nine available players — after their two deadline trades, another absence for Goran Dragic and a stomach bug for Jimmy Butler — Miami’s 3-point shooting was on. Gabe Vincent, Andre Iguodala and Tyler Herro made three consecutive 3s to open up a lead that crested at 110-100.

But then Portland went on an 11-0 run to retake the lead. The Heat’s offensive woes came back at the worst possible time, including some questionable decisions. Herro, for instance, took a shot six seconds after Trevor Ariza had grabbed a rebound. Erik Spoelstra also subbed out Bam Adebayo, who had another aggressive game, for that stretch. But Adebayo only played 32 minutes on the night. He could’ve played that entire fourth quarter.

Out of a timeout, the Heat ran a great play to give Adebayo an alley-oop dunk. Miami and Portland exchanged baskets (and the lead) for the next several possessions. Twice, Enes Kanter grabbed the offensive rebound to put the ball back in.

The Heat were down two with 12 seconds to go, but Iguodala threw a nice in-bounds pass to Adebayo, who quickly made a score. The score was tied, 122-122. Only 10 seconds remained. But on the Blazers’ last possession, Ariza’s hand grazed Damian Lillard’s arm as he rose for a 3-pointer. The referee called a foul, and Lillward sunk all three free throws. With just a second left and no timeouts, the Heat had virtually no chance to win. Lillard broke up an Adebayo pass, and the buzzer sounded.

This game felt like the Heat’s first loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, when COVID-19 protocols left Miami with just eight available players. Despite a valiant effort, Miami lost that game in overtime. And tonight, the Heat dropped their fifth straight game and fell back under .500.

The impending arrival of Victor Oladipo should soften the blow of this loss, however. And aside from that breakdown to squander that 10-point fourth-quarter lead, Miami did a lot well. For one, Adebayo was amazing on both ends of the court. In one second-quarter sequence, Lillard isolated against him — and Adebayo blocked his shot.

The Heat center rose to the rim for numerous poster-worthy dunks and finished with 29 points on 13-of-16 shooting from the field. Adebayo also collected nine rebounds, seven assists and five blocks.

The Heat also shot an amazing 16-for-34 from 3. Robinson and Herro, who both were mentioned in potential trades for Kyle Lowry earlier today, played much better than they have over the past week. Robinson was 4-for-6 from 3, and Herro was 5-of-9. Even Kendrick Nunn shot well from beyond the arc, going 3-of-5 from downtown. (Max Strus, though, was 0-for-4.)

Ariza started the game at power forward, but defended Lillard from the jump. Miami’s starting power forward now becomes an open question. With LaMarcus Aldridge possibly on the way, does Adebayo shift to that position?

The Heat offered some tantalizing possibilities Thursday. Let’s add the newcomers to this mix.