The Portland Trail Blazers' eight-game home winning streak figures to face a big test on Thursday night as they welcome LeBron James and the Miami Heat to the Rose Garden.
The Trail Blazers kicked off a span of playing eight of their next 10 at home with Monday's 125-119 overtime victory over the Orlando Magic. Portland improved to 12-4 at home this season and has not lost on its own floor since Dec. 8 against Sacramento.
It was a game of momentum as Portland battled back from a nine-point deficit at halftime to take a late five-point lead. However, the Blazers allowed the game-tying 3-pointer with 8.9 seconds left in the fourth before rookie Damian Lillard took over in overtime.
The guard hit the go-ahead basket with two minutes remaining in the extra period, drove the lane and scored following an Orlando miss and then came up with a steal before feeding J.J. Hickson for a game-sealing dunk with 1:07 to play.
Lillard, who leads all rookies with 18.2 points and 6.5 assists per game, had 18 points and 10 assists, while LaMarcus Aldridge netted 27 points with 10 rebounds and five assists. Wesley Matthews ended with 24 points, Hickson had a double-double with 20 points and 15 rebounds and Nicolas Batum matched a career high with 10 assists in addition to scoring 10 points.
"Early on in the season, we get down 11 (points) like that, there's no telling how that game's going to turn out," said Matthews. "But with the recent streak we've been on, our record as of late, we've got a confidence and a swagger about us."
That confidence led to Portland's 11th victory in 14 games and helped the club improve to 5-0 in overtime this season. It is the first time the Trail Blazers have won their first five overtime games since 1986-87.
Though the Blazers are rolling at home, they have lost their past three at the Rose Garden to the Heat, including a 107-93 decision in the lone meeting between the teams last season.
Aldridge had 20 points, six boards and four assists for Portland, which has never lost four in a row at home to the Heat but hasn't bested Miami at the Rose Garden since Nov. 26, 2008.
James continued his usual scoring barrage versus the Trail Blazers, netting 38 points to go with 11 rebounds, six assists and five steals. Dwyane Wade added 33 points and 10 assists.
In 17 career games versus Portland, James is averaging 30.1 points per game. It is his second-highest scoring average against any one team behind only the 30.4 he nets per game versus Utah. James is also averaging 9.7 rebounds per game versus the Blazers.
The former MVP has scored at least 20 points in all 33 games this season, the second-longest streak to begin a season in league history since the merger. Only George Gervin had a longer run, beginning the 1981-82 with San Antonio by netting at least 20 in the first 45 contests.
However, 22 points and 10 rebounds from James, as well as 30 points from Wade, were not enough to top the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday. Wade netted a season- high 23 points in the first half, but the Heat fell 87-77.
Miami led by seven with 8:24 to play in the third, but Indiana responded with a 23-6 run to end the frame and held the Heat to just 35 points in the second half. Miami was also outrebounded 55-36 and is averaging the second-fewest boards per game in the league at 39.0.
"You have to give them credit. They grinded us to a near halt offensively. We did not have a very fluid game on that side of the court," said Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra. "Then we all saw it -- they pounded us on the glass. At some point, enough will be enough for us and we'll take care of that department."
Miami was beginning a six-game swing and has now lost three of its past four on the road. The trip is shifting out west with games at Portland, Sacramento, Utah, Golden State and Los Angeles, against the Lakers, on tap.