Trail Blazers topple Sixers again, Heat defeat Rockets to start road trip

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Portland Trail Blazers veteran Carmelo Anthony tries to keep the ball away from Philadelphia 76ers defender Furkan Korkmaz at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Damian Lillard drained a pair of crucial late free throws and Robert Covington made a clutch defensive play with three seconds left as the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia 76ers 118-114 on Thursday.

With three seconds to go Portland was ahead by two points, 116-114 when Covington stole the Sixers inbound pass. A foul by Philadelphia sent Portland to the free throw line.

Lillard sank both baskets to put the game out of reach as the Blazers defeated Philadelphia for the second time this month.

Lillard finished with 30 points and seven assists and veteran Carmelo Anthony had a throwback game for Portland, coming off the bench to score 17 of his season-high 24 points in the fourth quarter.

"I didn't play much in the third quarter. I was cheering my teammates on. I just waited until my number was called," said Anthony.

The 36-year-old shot nine-of-15 from the floor and made four of five threes. His two late free throws broke a 114-114 tie and set the stage for Covington and Lillard to finish it off.

"I started feeling good and the basket got big," Anthony said. "I try to play the right way and take advantage of my opportunities."

Joel Embiid had 35 points and nine rebounds as the 76ers lost for just the second time in their past eight games, with both those defeats coming at the hands of the Trail Blazers.

In Houston, Jimmy Butler's triple-double of 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists propelled the Miami Heat to a fourth straight victory, a 101-94 win over the Houston Rockets to open a seven-game road trip.

Butler registered his 10th career triple-double and his sixth with the Heat -- surpassing Dwyane Wade for the second most in Miami history.

Max Strus came off the bench to score 21 points and Bam Adebayo finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds for the Heat, who trailed 53-47 at halftime before rallying in the second half.

Miami dominated the third quarter, outscoring Houston 28-10, but then allowed the Rockets to pull within three late in the fourth in front of a pandemic-limited crowd of 3,200 in Texas.

"I think we just stuck with it, got some stops when we needed to, some quality buckets," said Butler. "That's how we pulled this one out."

Runners-up to the Lakers in last season's NBA Finals, the Heat are trying to claw their way into playoff position in the East after being hit hard by Covid-19 absences and a string of injuries early in the season.

Their roster took another hit on Thursday when they learned right before tip off that Tyler Herro couldn't play because of Covid-19 protocols.

He had made the trip to Houston, where the Heat launched their longest road trip since 2009.

"There is no excuses, we're expected to win, at least compete," Butler said. "We have times where we don't even do that, but after getting guys back, everybody's getting more confident, getting in better shape. Hopefully we can keep winning."

Guard John Wall finished with 17 points and seven assists, DeMarcus Cousins tallied 16 points and 11 rebounds and Eric Gordon scored 17 points off the bench for the Rockets, who were without their leading rebounder Christian Wood for the fourth straight game.

Elsewhere, Semi Ojeleye scored 24 points and Payton Pritchard added 20 as the Boston Celtics drained 20 three-pointers en route to a 120-106 victory over the Toronto Raptors.

Ojeleye and Pritchard each hit a half dozen baskets from beyond the arc as the Celtics won for just the second time in their last five games.

Kemba Walker scored 21 points and Jayson Tatum had 17 points and nine assists in the loss.

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