Batum Leads the Way in Sac
Nothing was easy about Wednesday night's win in Sacramento. Nothing has been easy for this team all season. And, if you've followed anything that's happened lately, you know that's not about to change. So, in my opinion, you don't pick apart wins right now. You take them and move on, no matter how you think the game should have gone
The Sacramento Kings have been playing better as of late. They beat the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on their recent road trip, and finished the trip by blowing a lead in Atlanta and losing a heartbreaker at the buzzer. In the home game, prior to last night's game, they beat the Denver Nuggets by 20. Should the Blazers have still beaten them? Yes. Does the fact that they had to do it in overtime take anything away from the win? No.
The Blazers won't have Marcus Camby for a while, as you know. We don't know how long it'll be, but Thursday morning's procedure went very well, and it was relatively minor. It won't be a case where he'll be back in 8 days, like Brandon Roy, but I would guess he'll beat the 4 to 6 weeks timeline that's usually issued after surgeries like this. I'm going to be optimistic here and say he'll be back in three weeks or so.
To say the basketball gods haven't been kind to the Trail Blazers is an understatement. But, at least in this case, they allowed Joel Przybilla to get back into the swing of things before they took Camby away. Joel's progress in the last two games has been very substantial.
Joel looked more like himself on Monday. Last night, he played 29 minutes (they were planning on limiting him to 20), grabbed 11 rebounds, took a couple of charges, and was altering shots inside. He was also back to playing the role of physical enforcer in the middle. That's been missing. Camby is an incredible rebounder and shot blocker, but doesn't get down and dirty quite like Przybilla. Joel protects his teammates, doesn't take kindly to bully tactics, and often climbs in the heads of younger players (see DeMarcus Cousins last night) and gets them thinking more about him than the game.
Offensively, it was good to see Nicolas Batum continuing to take more responsibility and being more aggressive. He had 24 points on 9 of 16 shooting, and also grabbed 6 rebounds. Defenses are going to continue to try and find ways to stop LaMarcus Aldridge, and Batum has got to be the guy who steps up.
The Kings threw every kind of defense imaginable at Aldridge last night, and they're a big and physical team. In the past couple of years we would possibly have seen L.A. back down from a challenge like this, and settle for outside shots. Not anymore. He ground his way to 23 points and 9 rebounds, and again, scored in a variety of ways.
The other star for Portland's offense on this night was Andre Miller. He has such a great sense of only looking for his shot when the team absolutely needs it. He's fine with the fact that he's probably the third or fourth option on most plays. Last night he had 20 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists. And, he drilled a couple of huge shots late in the game, and overtime, that helped Portland survive.
Rudy Fernandez was very solid off the bench, with 13 points, 5 assists, 3 steals, and 3 rebounds. He continues to disrupt on defense, and is playing very under control.
To listen to Nate McMillan's post-game comments, click here
Now it's the Clippers, at the Rose Garden. These aren't your father's Clippers, and they aren't the Clippers who dropped both meetings with the Blazers so far. Blake Griffin is a beast, and they are gaining confidence with each passing game.
Given what happened the last time these teams played, when Griffin got completely flattened by Miller, and the fact that Przybilla is back on the court to serve as the protecter, this game will be chippy. Bank on that. Also bank on the fact that if Portland wins, it won't be easy. I know, I know.. I sound like a broken record.