The end of a five-game road trip, capped by a back-to-back, is not the usual scenario for someone to have an offensive explosion.
Damian Lillard apparently disagrees.
Lillard scored a season-high 49 points, tied a career high with nine 3-pointers, and carried the Portland Trail Blazers past the Miami Heat, 115-104 on Sunday night. He had 16 points after checking in for the final time with 8:26 left, sparking a game-ending 28-18 run.
“I felt good, so in my mind, I was like ‘When I get back in the game, I’m just going to take the game over,’” Lillard said. “That’s the kind of game I felt I had going.”
Lillard shot 14 for 21 from the field, 9 for 12 from 3-point range and made all 12 of his free throws. He checked back in with Miami having cut Portland’s lead down to one, and immediately scored the next five points to help the Trail Blazers move closer to the final Western Conference playoff spot.
Portland (32-37) capped a 4-1 trip and moved within a game of Denver for the West’s No. 8 spot. Miami (34-36) missed a chance to reach .500 for the first time this season and fell from No. 7 to No. 9 in the East.
“That was one incredible performance,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “There’s less than five players in this league that you have to do something different on your pick-and-roll coverage. Lillard obviously is one of those guys. Once he got going … he was outstanding.”
Lillard’s 49 points tied for the 11th-most in a game this season. It was the most anyone has scored on 21 field-goal attempts or less, and he now has 1,002 3-pointers in his career.
“I love the effort that we’re playing with,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “Damian Lillard’s performance goes without saying. But it was a really good team effort and a great end to the road trip.”
Jusef Nurkic added 21 points and 12 rebounds for Portland, while C.J. McCollum scored 18 and Noah Vonleh added 11.
James Johnson scored 24 points for Miami, which lost for just the second time in its last 17 home games. Hassan Whiteside had 17 points and 10 rebounds, Goran Dragic scored 17 points and Tyler Johnson added 14 for the Heat.
“This team, we don’t get deflated,” James Johnson said. “We understand the competition and what it takes to win. Those guys just didn’t let us come back.”
Trail Blazers: All four of Lillard’s 40-point efforts this season have come on the road. He also had a four-point play in the third quarter. …. Portland’s bench got outscored 51-14. But the Blazers’ starters outscored Miami’s 101-53.
Heat: The Heat fell to 7-17 this season when Dion Waiters isn’t in the lineup. Waiters is out with a sprained ankle. … Whiteside scored Miami’s first 10 points, then had seven of the final 94 Heat points. … Heat President Pat Riley, who spent part of the weekend scouting NCAA Tournament games, was in his customary seat.
Lillard’s 49 points were two shy of his career high, and the sixth-most an opponent has managed at Miami. Those with more: Michael Jordan scored 56 and 50, Alex English scored 51, Vince Carter also scored 51 and Carmelo Anthony had 50.
Miami’s “Home Strong” pregame ceremony, where the Heat pay tribute to a member of the Armed Forces, carried particular significance Sunday. The team honored U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Kenny Lewis, who has been part of the Heat security team since his retirement in 2010. Every player and coach on the Heat roster joined Lewis at midcourt for the ceremony.
Trail Blazers: Host Milwaukee on Tuesday. It’s the start of a three-game homestand.
Heat: Host Phoenix on Tuesday. Miami has beaten the Suns six consecutive times at home.