Associated Press

C.J. McCollum has 24 points, Blazers beat Heat 110-93

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — C.J. McCollum said the Portland Trail Blazers are in a position to surprise people.

After a big roster turnover in the offseason, many did not think the Blazers would be in the playoff conversation.

Damian Lillard said that from the outside, some might be surprised because the Blazers don’t have players “labeled as shooters.” And still, they are making noise and are in throwing distance of a playoff berth.

“We’re going to compete,” McCollum said. “That’s my mindset. I can’t speak for other people but we’re doing what we’re supposed to. We’re winning at home.

“(We’re) beating teams we are supposed to beat.”

McCollum had 24 points and made all six of his 3-point attempts to help the Blazers beat the Heat 110-93 Saturday night for their seventh straight home win. They are in sixth place in the Western Conference but have not clinched a playoff spot yet.

Despite the loss, the Heat still clinched a postseason berth after the Chicago Bulls fell 94-90 to Detroit earlier in the evening. Miami came into the game tied for the third seed in the East but dropped to sixth with the loss.

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said that clinching that playoff spot is not something his team takes for granted.

“With this organization, we always have big expectations, that doesn’t change from year to year,” Spoelstra said. “So, getting over that hurdle does mean something to us, but we still have more that we’re working on for right now and that’s really what we’re focused on. It was a disappointing game. They outplayed us, they played very well and we did not bring a great game that would have been necessary to get this road win.”

The Blazers made 10 3-pointers to break a franchise record for 3-pointers in a season with 808.

Lillard did not play in the fourth quarter and finished with 18 points for the Blazers. Gerald Henderson came off the bench to score 17 points.

Data curated by PointAfter

Hassan Whiteside led the Heat with 21 points and 13 assists.

Guard Dwyane Wade missed his second straight game because of back and neck injuries sustained Wednesday against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Portland built a 23-point lead early in the third quarter and did not let up. Their largest lead of the night was 28 points.

Portland shot 62 percent from beyond the arc while the Heat made only 31 percent. The Blazers edged the Heat out in fast-break points 18-4. Miami’s bench outscored Portland 42-29.

Miami’s Luol Deng chalked the loss up to not playing as hard as Portland did.

“We had spurts where we played hard and got it going, but they were more consistent than we were for most of the game,” Deng said. “Coming out of the third quarter, they really blew their lead and we didn’t have enough to get it back.”

Saturday’s game was the second of back-to-back games for Miami. Last night, the Heat beat the Sacramento Kings 112-106.

McCollum is the second NBA player to make six 3-pointers in a game without a miss this season, joining Matt Barnes.

“I knew I’m a good shooter,” McCollum said. “I’ve gotten a lot of reps over the course of my career and I pride myself on mechanics and getting in and getting my reps and trusting the process.”

HENDERSON’S HELP:

Henderson’s offensive output was nearly double his average. It was the 10th time in the past 13 games that he has been in double figures.

Portland is 9-1 when he scores 15 or more.

“He’s really provided a spark off the bench, quality scoring,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “He makes some energy plays, some dynamic plays.”

TIP INS:

Heat: This is the seventh time Miami has made the playoffs in eight seasons under Spoelstra. … Miami traded Brian Roberts to Portland on Feb. 18 along with a future second-round pick in exchange for cash considerations. Roberts never played a game as a member of the Heat, spending just one day after being traded from Charlotte.

Trail Blazers: Kris Kaman was listed as active on Saturday night after being inactive for two games with upper-respiratory issues. He came into the game with less than 4 minutes remaining. … Former Trail Blazer Terry Porter, who was at the game, was named coach of the University of Portland’s men’s basketball team on Friday.

 

Watch Jerry West’s emotional memories of trading for/his relationship with Kobe Bryant

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Jerry West has never understood why people thought he was brilliant for recognizing the talent of a 17-year-old Kobe Bryant coming out of high school. To him it was obvious.

If it had been obvious (and if that era had not frowned on the development that came with drafting high school players), Kobe wouldn’t have been a Laker, and NBA history might be very different.

For West, Kobe was not just another player, he was like a son. West talked about it on the well done TNT special commemorating Kobe Tuesday night.

What those neatly packaged TNT clip does not show is just how difficult and emotional it was for West to talk about Kobe.

West has had a life of incredible highs, but also more lows and pain than many — abused by his father and battling depression his entire life — and this is another emotional tax on the NBA legend.

Joel Embiid returns to Philadelphia rotation after nine-game absence

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When you saw the image of Joel Embiid‘s dislocated ring finger facing a direction no finger should face, you knew he was going to miss some time (even though he had it taped up and returned to that game). Embiid had surgery to repair a torn radial collateral ligament on the ring finger of his left hand. Ultimately he missed nine games while he recovered.

Tuesday night against the Warriors, Embiid will be back.

He will have a soft wrap on his left hand that has been cleared by the league.

Philadelphia went 6-3 while Embiid was out.

Ben Simmons stepped up — in his last five games (before Tuesday) he averaged 24 points a game on 70.6 percent shooting, plus 10 rebounds and 8.6 assists a game. Without Embiid in the paint or taking up touches, Simmons took over the offense and looked much more comfortable in his role.

However, the Sixers’ offensive rating in those nine Embiid-less games was 104.9, 29th in the NBA (even in the last five it was 103.2, still 29th in the league). Simmons may have been playing better but the offense was not.

When Simmons and Embiid share the court this season, their offensive rating is 106.7 — not great, but better than without Embiid playing.

Victor Oladipo returns to Pacers Wednesday, likely off bench with minutes limit

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Indiana has gone 30-17 this season and sits as the five seed in the Eastern Conference — and Wednesday they get their best player back.

Victor Oladipo — the former Most Improved Player and All-NBA team member who has been out for most of a year with a right quad tendon rupture — practiced with the Pacers on Tuesday and, as expected, will make his return to the court Wednesday night against the Bulls.

Coach Nate McMillan would not say how he planned to use Oladipo but, considering the minutes limit, off the bench seems the most likely move. McMillan said the team would revisit the minutes and role after the All-Star break.

While Milwaukee has separated itself atop the East, the next five teams — Miami, Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, and Indiana — are all within 2.5 games of each other and could end up in any order. If Oladipo can return close to the All-NBA form he was in prior to his injury, the Pacers become a big threat to break out of that group. If nothing else, they become a much tougher out in the postseason.

Giannis Antetokounmpo out for Bucks-Wizards (shoulder)

Giannis Antetokounmpo
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Giannis Antetokounmpo is on track to repeat as Most Valuable Player.

So, any game he misses is notable.

Bucks:

Expect to see more Ersan Ilyasova and D.J. Wilson. With the trade deadline approaching, this could even be a showcase game for Wilson.

Milwaukee is still favored over the Wizards. The Bucks have outscored opponents by 7.8 points per possession without Antetokounmpo this season. They’re deep.

Of course, anything can happen. It’s only one game in a long NBA regular season.

Which might something to do with Antetokounmpo sitting. Even if he plays in Milwaukee’s next game, vs. the Nuggets on Friday, he’ll get six straight days off. That’s a nice break.