Record-Setting Night for Batum
It was only a couple of games ago that we were holding our collective breath, fearing the worst about Nicolas Batum's scary knee injury. He would say later, he was scared his season might be over. Perhaps it's just now really starting.
After sitting out the last two games, resting the bruised knee, Batum returned to the lineup for the Trail Blazers and brought down the house, setting a franchise record for three pointers made in a game. Batum was 9 for 15 from three-point land, and scored a career-high 33, as the Blazers pounded Denver 117-97.
At about 5:30pm, I was watching as Batum took to the court to go through his usual pre-game routine. He was moving slowly, walking gingerly, and would wince with just about every step. But, he maintained that he was going to try and give it a go in this game. He knew how important it was. About 10 minutes before tipoff, during the formal warmups, I asked Nic how he was feeling. He told me, "every step I feel it, and it's tough to move." I then said, "don't move, just shoot threes tonight." Okay, I made that last part up. But, I wish I would have said that.
After the game was over, Batum said in his interview with Michael Holton that he was having trouble doing much on the court, and had pretty much decided to stop driving to the basket. Once he did that the threes fell like rain.
Batum's record-setting performance capped off a fun Saturday at the Rose Garden, as Portland rebounded from that frustrating loss at Sacramento. Yes, this is a little bit crazy. The Blazers are now 11-1 at home. Back and forth we go, with this home-road thing.
They lose the lead and fall at Golden State, and then beat Phoenix at home by 38. They lose a late lead and fall in Utah, and then beat Charlotte at home by 44. They lose a fourth-quarter lead in Sacramento, and then beat Denver at home by 20. Once they get the road stuff figured out, they're really going to be in good shape.
Yes, Denver was playing for the third time in as many nights, and they got in late to Portland. But, everyone is dealing with this schedule. When Portland fell at Golden State, their third in three nights, I didn't really hear anyone use that as an excuse. We probably did, on TV, but the players didn't.
So, forget the circumstances, this was a divisional game the Trail Blazers had to have. With the win, they take the season series from Denver. The Blazers only go to Denver once this season, and that's a very good thing if you've paid attention to history. Portland wins in Denver just about as often as Denver wins in Portland. So, the Blazers take the series, and that could be very big down the road.
Batum's effort overshadowed yet another very solid effort from future all-star LaMarcus Aldridge. He's been so consistent, and in this game had 29 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists. While he was doing that on offense, he was holding Nene to 4 points, and 2 rebounds, on 1 of 5 shooting. Nene wasn't even a factor, and Aldridge had a lot to do with that.
These 20-rebound nights from Marcus Camby are getting routine. For the third time this season he pulled down at least 20 boards at the Rose Garden. He only played 29 minutes and 35 seconds. And, being this was a home game, Gerald Wallace was terrific. He had 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists.
The plan was to smack Denver in the mouth early, run them to death, get Aldridge established, ease Batum back into the lineup, get chalupas for the fans, and get the regulars out of the game to rest. Mission accomplished.
The only thing that didn't go well was when Raymond Felton got tangled up with Nene and rolled his ankle. He had to be helped off the floor and didn't return. X-rays were negative though, and we'll learn more in the next day or so. It actually seems to be a foot injury, and he'll see a foot doctor on Sunday, I was told. Jamal Crawford, who played facilitator in this game, and did it well racking up 8 assists, could be getting more time at the point depending on how long Felton is out.
It only gets tougher now, as the Blazers take on Oklahoma City on Monday night.
At least it's at home.