PORTLAND — The Portland Trail Blazers got off to a slow start but a strong third quarter propelled them past the Miami Heat 99-83 Thursday.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the Blazers. Wesley Matthews, who was questionable and did not practice Wednesday, scored 18 points including 14 in the second half.
“I thought we played a very good defensive second half,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “We limited their points in the paint. Offensive rebounds, second-chance points. Obviously the third quarter made a big difference.”
The Heat play at the league’s slowest pace, and the Blazers sped the game up — a game that was more to their liking.
The Blazers and their fans were once again concerned with the state of one of their players one game after Matthews scared the fans and himself with an awkward fall.
Damian Lillard collided with Dwyane Wade in the backcourt with a minute left in the first half, sending both players to the hardwood.
Lillard was holding his lower back for the rest of half and was bent over in some obvious discomfort while he walked in the tunnel.
“I knew he was sore, but he gets up. He’s pretty tough,” Stotts said.
Lillard returned and didn’t appear to show any ill-effects from the collision with Wade. In fact, he looked even better in the second half.
He pulled up for a deep 3-pointer in Chris Bosh’s face. A few possessions later, Steve Blake found him for an alley-oop dunk.
The Heat took a first half lead behind some aggressive play from Wade, who finished with 23 points, and success on the offensive glass.
Wade powered them to a five-point lead after one quarter, and the Blazers struggled in the second quarter.
The Heat got to the paint and got to the rim with ease in the first half. One night after being outrebounded by the Lakers, the Heat, who are dead-last in total rebound-rate, were hitting the glass better than the Blazers in the first half.
The third quarter wasn’t nearly as kind to the Heat as they missed eight of their first 11 shots and scored only 16 points in the quarter. Wade was the Heat’s lone bright spot in the quarter, finding ways to score in the post.
Miami couldn’t stop the Blazers on the other end. While Lillard made the highlight plays, Aldridge was laid the ground work with 10 points. The Blazers were 13-for-22 in the pivotal quarter.
Matthews (hyper-extended left knee) was questionable to play against the Heat after not participating in practice. He did little other than shoot in Portland’s Thursday morning shoot around but sure enough he was out there for tip-off.
He warmed up in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter where he scored 10 of his 18 points.
In the final period Matthews spun Wade around with a jab-step that opened him up for a corner-3 pointer. And he lost Wade again for an easy lay-up.
“I thought he played well,” Stotts said. “If I didn’t know he’d had an issue last game I wouldn’t have said that I’d noticed anything. “
One game after recording his second career double-double, Meyers Leonard wasn’t given the first look off the Blazers bench. But Stotts brought Leonard in to face Miami’s big second unit eventually. This time his 3-point shot didn’t go in and there were no four-point plays.
Leonard grabbed nine rebounds in 20 minutes of play to go along with four points.
“I thought he was very steady,” Stotts said. “Obviously last game he made his shots, made his 3’s. I talked about his rebounding last game, and I thought he had good timing on his rebounds again tonight.”
The Blazers also had a season-low seven turnovers against the Heat, who are in the top-five in the league in defensive turnover percentage.
“Turnovers had been an issue the last couple of weeks,” Stotts said. “Since we don’t create a lot of turnovers I thought that it was important that we take care of the ball.”