Miami – The Miami Heat were up 12 with 7:54 to go in the game before the Portland Trail Blazers went on a 24-10 run to steal the game away from the Heat at the Rose Garden on Jan. 10.
The Heat have won 10 of its last 12 games and are on top of the Eastern Conference standings. But, it's safe to say they haven't forgotten about that game in Portland and they're labeling it “The one that got away.”
“It was disappointing,” Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That was a disappointing loss. We played a very good basketball game. We were up 11 with seven and change to go. We pride ourselves on being able to shut the door and close teams out with a double-digit lead like that for most of the game. They made bigger plays than us and you have to give them credit, but we didn't finish the game the way we're capable of.”
“We think about it a lot,” Heat forward LeBron James said. “We let that one slip away.”
During that very game, James was held to just 15 points on 6-of-16 shooting. Over the last five games, James has put together a five-game stretch unseen in some time averaging 31 points, six assists, and shooting 71 percent in that span.
Was there something the Trail Blazers did defensively?
“Nah, no. I missed some shots,” James said. “Some really easy shots that I would normally make. I remember C.B. (Chris Bosh) had it going so we kind of facilitated through C.B. and D-Wade (Dwyane Wade) at points...I didn't shoot the ball well and didn't get to the free throw line either.”
Much has been made about Nicolas Batum trying to slow down James, but it will be Wesley Matthews assigned to the superstar from the jump.
“I'm more physical than Nic is,” Matthews said. “We're two different type of defenders. We just feel like our matchup with me on LeBron is a better one.”
“He's (Matthews) is a very good physical defender that can get underneath you,” Spoelstra said. “I think the idea was to put a little bit more length and size (Batum) on Dwyane and deal with LeBron in the post.”
The Trail Blazers are riding a three-game losing streak and it's probably not the best time to be facing the defending champs. However, the Trail Blazers have won the last four games against the Heat in Miami.
“Portland is a very good team,” Wade said. “When they're rolling, they're rolling. They play us well all the time. Every time we play them it's always a good game. We look forward to a different kind of challenge then we've had all week.”
The Heat sound like there is no way they will looked pass this game. It's almost like they're treating it like a playoff series. They are playing some great ball and getting contributions all over the place.
But there was still that one game in Portland.
“We put ourselves in a great position to win that game and control the game all the way through until the last six minutes, they came storming back,” Spoelstra said. “That's a textbook way of how not to close out a game on the road.”
“We gotta get this one back for what they did to us in Portland,” Wade said.
Wade on Damian Lillard: “He's a young guy that's going to go through his mistakes, but this kid is going to be a really good player.”
James on LaMarcus Aldridge: “He can do a little bit of everything. He can shoot the ball, he can post-up, he can rebound. He's been the number one person you have to scout for going against them for a while. I've seen talent, I know talent and LaMarcus Aldridge is definitely one of the big time players in our league.”