Take That For Data: Miami Survives Late Surge From Trail Blazers

Insight3 years ago5 min readChristian Hernandez

The Miami Heat withheld a fourth-quarter comeback for a 120-111 victory Saturday to the Portland Trail Blazers at the AmericanAirlines Arena. Our resident statistician, Christian Hernandez (@TheMapleRick), pieced together his biggest takeaways for Miami in a series we’re calling, “Take That For Data.”

Players of the Game: Dwyane Wade & Goran Dragic

I couldn’t just settle on one player as it was a tale of two halves for the Heat offense.

First Half: Dwyane Wade showed a taste of why he’s one of the greatest players of all-time, as he went off for 18 points on eight shots, including 4 of 5 from behind the arc, which is some unicorn-level randomness for the legend not known for his range. Wade, who was a plus-16 in the first half, led the Heat bench to a big first-half lead, which Miami was able to hold on to despite a furious fourth quarter charge spearheaded by the Trail Blazers backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.


Second Half: Goran Dragic came down and saved the day for Miami in the second half, providing 17 points on nine shot attempts. He made his imprint in the final five minutes, though, scoring 10 points on four shots along with some Eddie House nut-sack-level 3-pointers to help upset the fury Lillard and McCollum were raining down in the fourth quarter.


Lineup of the Game:

The Starting Lineup (Dragic-Richardson-McGruder-Olynyk-Whiteside)

The starting lineup showed again why they should continue getting run, playing a team-high 21 minutes together, as well as a team-high plus-eight for the game. They made their mark when it mattered most, outscoring the Trail Blazers by nine points in the fourth quarter (including the furious finish at the end once Portland had gone up three points within the closing minutes).

That fourth quarter showed off the offensive balance this unit brings, as Miami shot 70 percent from the field and 63 percent from behind the arc in the final six minutes while assisting on five of the team’s seven field goals.

Matchup of the Game:

Rodney McGruder vs. Damian Lillard

Rodney McGruder continued his emergence as a vital player for this Heat team by taking on the task of being Damian Lillard’s primary defender. In the 29 possessions that McGruder was Lillard’s primary defender, the Trail Blazers only scored 28 points despite Lillard accounting for 16 of those points on 6 of 13 shooting, resulting in a 96.5 offensive rating for the Blazers in those possessions. In the 19 possessions where Lillard was being guarded by anyone else on the Heat, the Trail Blazers had a 136.8 offensive rating.


On the flip side, Lillard only guarded Rodney for 11 possessions, but the Heat had 200.0 offensive rating in those possessions, including 12 points from McGruder himself. In this clip, you see McGruder with some fundamental basketball keeping Lillard on his backside as he tips in the Whiteside miss.


The Heat capitalized in a large way on both sides of the ball from this matchup.

Stat of the Game:

Hustling Hassan

Hassan Whiteside had a game that shouldn’t be judged by its cover (five points on eight shots). Whiteside had a game that is quite unique for him: A game where he didn’t get the touches or success offensively, but still showed maximum effort doing the little things. Whiteside led the Heat in almost every single hustle stat, per NBA Stats, accounting for five screen assists, two deflections, 15 contested shots, and five box outs. This block in particular stood out as a sign that Hassan is a much healthier player than last season.

Whiteside’s willingness and effort to provide meaningful screens has been one the biggest changes I’ve seen from him this season, which probably speaks to his health and comfort with that knee more than anything.

The Trail Blazers, especially in the fourth quarter, began to target Whiteside in the high-screen game and used it to get open looks for Lillard and McCollum. But despite their targeted assault, Whiteside’s effort stayed. He didn’t get discouraged, and his effort was consistent right through the final comeback where he made some critical rebounds and even PASSES that turned the outcome of the game.

Heat Traditional/Advanced Stats Leaders (vs. Portland)

• Points: Goran Dragic (28)

• Rebounds: Hassan Whiteside (16) 

• Assists: Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson, and Kelly Olynyk (5)

• Steals: Justise Winslow (3)

Blocks: Hassan Whiteside (6)

• Plus/Minus: Kelly Olynyk (plus-eight)

• Offensive Rating: Kelly Olynyk (131.1)

• Defensive Rating: Bam Adebayo (80.6)

• Net Rating: Bam Adebayo (plus-19.4)

• True-Shooting Percentage: Kelly Olynyk (84.8 percent)

Heat Synergy Update

As of Sunday afternoon, both McGruder and Kelly Olynyk are in similar territory, per Synergy Sports. Both players right now are in the 90th percentile offensively while still being in the 70th percentile defensively.

Olynyk, in particular, has rehabbed his struggles from the first couple games rather quickly and is back into the same form that made him one of Miami’s most important players last season. Both players figure to play large roles moving forward as long as the Dragic-Richardson-McGruder-Olynyk-Whiteside starting lineup continues to flourish.