Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has been a mad bomber, scoring 40 or more points in six of his last nine games.
But now, the five-time All-Star guard is irate as the Trail Blazers enter Sunday’s home game against the Miami Heat.
Lillard scored 42 points in Friday’s 117-114 road loss to the Utah Jazz but it was two points that didn’t count that caused his ire.
Lillard drove for a potential game-tying layup that was knocked away by Utah center Rudy Gobert with 11.2 seconds left. The problem was, the ball bounced off the glass prior to Gobert tapping it away, but goaltending wasn’t called.
“We get to the last play of the game and they miss an easy call,” Lillard said. “Then they tell us it’s an easy no-call, like that’s obviously not a goaltend. It cost us the (expletive) game, man.”
Crew chief Josh Tiven later told a pool reporter the call was missed and it was indeed goaltending. Lillard saw the pool report on Twitter and used a few obscenities to describe his feelings.
Shooting guard CJ McCollum also felt the pain and called for the NBA to discipline the officiating crew.
“It cost us the game. We can’t get it back,” McCollum told reporters. “When we make mistakes, we’re fined. And they cost us a game that could cost people money, so, they should be fined accordingly, because that’s terrible. Not just bad, terrible.”
Now the Trail Blazers have to turn their focus to the Heat, who have lost the first two games of a six-game road stretch.
All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler (shoulder) will miss his second straight game. The first without him didn’t go well as the Heat were outplayed in a 105-97 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Friday.
“It’s frustrating,” All-Star center Bam Adebayo said, “because I feel like we take two steps forward and take three steps back.”
Adebayo stood out with 26 points and seven rebounds but Miami was careless with the ball and committed 20 turnovers.
Help could be on the way as recently acquired swingman Andre Iguodala was slated to practice with the team on Saturday.
Iguodala, 36, hasn’t played this season after declining to join the Memphis Grizzlies. Miami traded for Iguodala prior to Thursday’s trading deadline.
“I still feel like I have a lot of time left and I think it’ll show,” Iguodala told reporters. “I’m sure I can get out there right now but I want to be in a position where I’m not being a hindrance. I want to be a plus and a positive every step of the way.”
The Heat plan to study how Iguodala’s practice performance rates before deciding whether or not he suits up on Sunday.
Miami figures to be without backup shooting guard Tyler Herro (ankle) for the third straight game.
Portland likely will be without backup guard Anfernee Simons, who suffered a concussion during the game at Utah. Big man Hassan Whiteside (leg) also sat out.
The loss was just the Trail Blazers’ third during Lillard’s stellar nine-game run. The top showing came against the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 20, when he set franchise records of 61 points and 11 3-pointers.
Lillard is averaging 42.4 points during the spurt. He has made at least six 3-pointers on seven occasions during the run, including eight in the loss to the Jazz.
Lillard has seven 40-point outings this season, matching Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler’s franchise mark from the 1988-89 season.
The Heat have won the past three meetings, including a 122-111 home triumph on Jan. 5. Miami point guard Goran Dragic registered season highs of 29 points and 13 assists and matched his career best of seven 3-pointers. Lillard had 34 points and 12 assists for Portland.
–Field Level Media