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Lillard Leads Charge And Batum Finishes Off Cavs In 2OT

  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    With 2.1 seconds left in double-overtime, the Trail Blazers (7-10) trailed by two. But Nicolas Batum hit a game-winning three before time expired to give the Trail Blazers a 118-117 win in a thriller over the Cleveland Cavaliers (4-13). Batum finished with 22 points (seven rebounds, two steals) while Damian Lillard (24 points, 11 assists) and LaMarcus Aldridge (21 points, eight rebounds) both had great performances.

    "Ending the losing streak is always important. More importantly, I liked how we played," Terry Stotts said.

    This one seemed like it would never end. First, the Trail Blazers found themselves down again. After the first quarter they were giving up easy buckets, allowing the Cavs to score 28 points and lead by seven, even though the Trail Blazers had been shooting quite well (10 for 18, 55.6 percent). Nicolas Batum had been hit in the face with an elbow and it forced Will Barton into early action. Barton scored five points in the first quarter. However, it wasn't just Barton that made an impact off the bench.

    Stotts said liked what he saw out of his young guys last night against the Celtics. He saw the confidence building and decided to continue letting the unit that played so well in Boston keep doing just that.

    "Everybody (eleven Trail Blazers) that got in the game in the first half scored. So, in a double-overtime game that allowed the starters to be somewhat rested," Stotts said. "It was much needed. That's an understatement."

    Freeland made his presence felt for Portland in his 12 minutes off the bench as he scored eight points, grabbed two rebounds and played well on defense. Luke Babbitt (four points) also helped provide rebounding with five boards off the bench despite a rough shooting night (2-7). Which helped against the NBA's best rebounder in Anderson Varejao especially when JJ Hickson (averaging 10.6 rebounds) grabbed only five rebounds.

    "Joel played well, " Stotts said. "Getting Joel and Luke in there, Nolan (six points, two assists, one turnover), I planned on doing that."

    The decision to shake things up seemed to pay off, even if the Trail Blazers were down at halftime.

    Damian Lillard took over in the third quarter. After scoring only two points but taking on more of a facilitator roll with eight assists, Lillard started to assert himself from the field. With the Trail Blazers down by two, Lillard made a lay-up with 8:22 left. Lillard would continue to score eight of the Trail Blazers next 10 points. Lillard's 10-point burst helped pull them in front, but just as they started to take control, it slipped out of their control just as quickly. That's just the type of game it was. The Cavs made a run of their own. Portland trailed by four heading into the final quarter.

    The fourth quarter didn't start out well for the Trail Blazers. The Cavs took advantage of some poor offense to extend the lead to eight. Back-to-back buckets by Nolan Smith and Will Barton brought it back to four as the starting backcourt came back in with 8:48 left. The rest of the fourth quarter was back and forth. An Aldridge lay-up with 36 seconds left tied the game at 91. Portland stopped Cleveland for what seemed like the first time in the quarter to set them up for a possession to win the game. Lillard missed the lay-up off an isolation play and the game went to overtime. Also, down the stretch it seemed that things were getting extra chippy between LaMarcus Aldridge and Anderson Varejao who had a great battle all night long in the paint. Aldridge finished with 21 points and nine rebounds while Varejao had 19 points and 17 rebounds.

    Overtime was continued to be a back and forth affair. Wesley Matthews, battling a bum thumb, became a great facilitator tonight for Portland. In the preview, I said Batum would have to step up in that role but it was Matthews who stepped up his playmaking. Matthews finished with 11 points and a career-high 10 assists, five of which came in the fourth quarter and both overtimes. Again, the Trail Blazers had a chance to win the game on the last possession. Lillard took a step-back three which was rebounded by Nicolas Batum, who instantly shot it at the hoop, and into the basket. The Trail Blazers all mobbed Batum as it seemed he had won the game. The replay proved otherwise. Double-overtime.

    More of the back and forth ensued. The Trail Blazers were behind by one point with 36 seconds left and on a pick and roll, Damian Lillard lost the handle of the ball out of bounds. But then, they got the stop they needed as Tyler Zeller travelled after getting a rebound on his own shot. They got another shot with nine seconds left but LaMarcus Aldridge missed a long two of a screen that was rebounded by JJ Hickson. Hickson tried to put the ball back up, even though there was time to kick it out for another look but was denied by Zeller as Alonzo Gee collected the ball and was fouled by Batum. Gee missed the front end of the two shots and hit the second setting up the deciding Portland with a chance to tie or win the game.

    The final play was designed to go to either Aldridge or Batum and Lillard was the trigger man. It went to Batum and he delivered. Batum and Lillard combined for 16 of Portland's 27 points in both overtime periods.

    "I almost won it with that first one," Batum said. "I had to make sure the second would count."

    The drama was even a bit much for Joel Freeland, who played such a big part in the game.

    "I have never seen anything like it. It was crazy. Shots were going in that I've never seen before. It was great to be a part of."

    The losing streak is over and Portland is now 3-0 in overtime games.

    Portland's next game will be in Charlotte against the surprising Bobcats (7-8) on Monday night. That game will be at 4PM and will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

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