Feb 04

Record-Setting Night for Batum

By mikebarrett
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.


  1. Great game tonight but we had better "get the road stuff figured out" pretty soon. As I posted earlier, so far we've played road games against 6 winning teams and 6 losing teams and have only 3 wins. The remaining road games are against 13 winning teams and 8 losing teams. It doesn't get any easier, in fact, it gets harder.

    Wonder what it's gonna cost Paul Allen to keep Nico next summer?

    by dgpdx on 2/5/2012 12:06 AM
  2. I think two of Jamal's better games have come when he was concentrating on distributing the ball and taking shots mostly in the flow of the offense. He doesn't score as much in that mode, but he gets assists and his turnovers are down. When he plays that way, he can be a very good PG.

    by dgpdx on 2/5/2012 12:09 AM
  3. How about some kudos for Wes Matthews? He shot well tonight and Aaron Afflalo didn't score. He hardly got the ball...

    by dgpdx on 2/5/2012 12:12 AM
  4. Obviously happy as can be about Nic's big night. Great game all around. I was a little puzzled by the fact that after Raymond went down, Nate still waited until it was all-out garbage time to give Nolan Smith a few stray minutes. Wouldn't it make sense, with a twenty-point lead, to go ahead and bring in the guy you're probably going to need in the next few games, to give him a few minutes with guys he'll be playing with, instead of the bench-warming squad?

    by Islander on 2/5/2012 1:08 AM
  5. I disagree with the 2nd to last sentence. It gets easier now, against OKC. I remember long ago you made a blog after the Blazers pounded OKC in OKC about how you gave a blog/article about an OKC guy saying the Thunder would be far ahead of the Blazers in a few years (hence, now), and we all took it as a joke. Do many people feel that way now? Likely not, but I still do.

    There is a reason OKC is one of our many few road wins. We're the better team, we just ran into a brick wall, and it's been a hell of a ride breaking it down. I think that is the case now. So, despite that article almost being right, I don't think it is. I'd say Denver is a tougher opponent, for the Trail Blazers, than OKC.

    I will say, that despite how much I hate overrated teams, with the addition of my least favorite player in the NBA (Blake Griffin) teaming up with one of my least favorite players in Chris Paul (who I had much respect for until he went to LAC), the Clippers quickly took the overrated mark from OKC. I still think OKC is one of my favorites, and so is Denver now that Melo, Smith, and Martin are gone. So, my 3 favorite teams in the West are... ironically... divisional rivals. I fear though that OKC and Denver, despite their records in the regular season and seeding, could be seeing early playoff exits.

    I fear the same for Portland if they don't get the road woes figured out soon. Every team is going to lose on the road. It happens. Can't win them all. But, Portland has played some easy opponents, and still lost. And those opportunities are NOT going to come back.

    But, let's look at the standings. Some of the toughest, most experienced teams are not in the top 4 in the West. Maybe a low seed will be better?

    Anyways, point being is I think we'll beat OKC as well on Monday. And I think Denver is the tougher opponent for the Trail Blazers.

    Now about the game...

    It was a good pounding early. But after the 1st quarter, I went with my close friend to a bar to watch the game. It wasn't BWW, so the game was on silent, and my seat wasn't very good, so I had trouble seeing what was going on (my eye sight from that distance is terrible). I couldn't see the score and couldn't tell the difference between Camby and Felton sometimes. After the third, they for some reason turned off all the TVs. So, it kind of sucks that I missed yet another record-breaking night. But, the final score is what I expected. Was nice to see Portland get it done. I'm kind of fine with the road loses as long as the Blazers continue their dominance at home. Because I know they'll figure their road woes out. I really think they just need a team that's tough. After all, they did play very well in OKC.

    by Herr on 2/5/2012 3:36 AM
  6. Matthews is worth every penny. Sometimes I like to isolate on him and watch all the things he does on the court. Opposing players who draw his number know they are in for a fight. He just won't go away. In addition, you have to play defense on him.
    Batum-shocka-locka. What a game he had. When he gets it going like that, he makes basketball a beautiful game to watch. When he hit that last 3 with the crowd chanting "Nic Batum" "Nic Batum" I had to smile and so did he. In the locker room I'm sure Camby and Gerald razzed him about stealing some of their thunder. Would have liked to have been a fly on the wall.
    LaMarcus is a monster. He never takes a day off. Ever.
    Camby is a human vacuum.
    Denver is a solid team. I don't care if they were on a triple back. A nice win for the Blazers.
    Mike, see you at the Houston game.
    Beat OKC!! GO BLAZERS!!

    by Divotking on 2/5/2012 8:26 AM
  7. I think Nate was way outta line yelling at Jamal for not shooting in the second half. With Felton down, JC was doing exactly what the team needed from him, playing the point. He was dishing dimes (8), taking care of the ball (2 TOs), and getting plenty of touches for his hot-shooting teammates. Nate owes him an apology.

    by dgpdx on 2/5/2012 9:06 AM
  8. WOW! im not saying this because of batum's disneyland fairytale night, im saying this because once again this win is not justified. the blazers played well almost 2 quarters, they started to slip a little towards the end of the 2nd quarter then 3rd quarter looked exactly how they have been playing all year. get a big lead on a team and start to get bored and laxed then let the opponent as mike rice said have "new life." going back to batum's wonderous night, why isnt he doing that every night for us. i saw one three pointer where he just jacked it up and walked off before while it was still in the air with all the confidence in the world knowing it was going in. give us this performance on the road batum and maybe ill believe you are consistent. i am not happy about this win, but many will be, so until they show that this kind of play and following nate's game plan can be done on the road its going to be home wins all the time. these same nuggets are better on the road than at home, we need some of their mojo obviously.

    by Imwytdashyt Epps on 2/5/2012 10:10 AM
  9. Mike: thank you for the update.
    I just finished watching the tape of the game as I missed both Radio and TV. It wasn't quite as exciting as it would have been live since I already knew the final score. I keep telling myself that I will wait and watch the game and not peek, but I always do.
    It was sure a great game by Nico; all those outside shots going in after so many road game misses really looked impressive. I hope you and that other Mike lol, are right that he may be our next closure. At least make him part of the equation.
    Camby and LMA, deserves as much credit as Batum though; the team play was awesome.
    You and that other Mike kept saying for Crawford to shoot, and I was saying keep passing. I know Crawford is a scorer and a chucker, but it appears to me that part of the road woes is Crawford missing 3's and the opponent getting run outs on the misses. IMO, if he was a facilitator on the road, we might win those close games. He uses Nico when he is looking for assist. he does great with pick an pops and pick and rolls with Aldridge, and is a great ball handler for the dish or the kick out after breaking down the D of their opponents.
    All in all I thought it was a great game. Did you change the slam of the game from Aldridge to Elliot after his slam dunk put-back. That was awesome.

    Thank you for the update.

    by Hg on 2/5/2012 10:33 AM
  10. I was at the game...it was such an awesome experience! When Nic made his 7th, 8th, and 9th 3-pointers, the Garden sounded like a cannon went off, it was so loud. I don't think Nic even knew why until he looked up at the big screen and saw that he had a career high in points (33) and a franchise record in points (9). Can't wait to go watch the Blazers pone the Thunder in March! Go Nic!

    by dancegirl on 2/5/2012 5:48 PM
  11. Here's what I felt, the good, the bad, and the ugly:

    The Good:
    1.) LMA & Camby doing their thing.
    2.) The win itself.
    3.) The Batum three pointers - Granted he isnt going to be open like this every time, but if they can run plays to get him open when he's really hot, then good things will happen both at home and on the road.
    4.) The Wallace fast breaks
    5.) Outrebounding Denver - always a good thing to outrebound your opponent.

    The Bad:
    1.) Sometimes the defence looked a bit flat footed, giving Denver easy lay-ins and open perimeter shots. Against a team that can shoot well like San Antonio or Orlando, this has cost us games.
    2.) The free throw disparity - It's hard to get to the free throw line when everyone is just standing around on the perimeter.

    The Ugly:
    1.) The too often stagnant offense - This has been at the center of so much of Portland's offensive road breakdowns and has time and again cost us plenty of road games. It was very disturbing to see that creeping into the Rose Garden, and if it wasn't for Batum's three point artillery to bail us out we would have been in serious trouble, maybe even lost the game. Yes, Wallace and LMA get double or even triple teamed when they post up, but if the ball is swung around the court fast enough this can be over come by getting others involved close in.

    2.) The Wallace three pointers - This guy is not a three point shooter, so why does he shoot so many? This is tying in directly to the problem of the stagnating offense, when was the last time we saw him go in on a flex cut? There needs to be way more people setting screens and moving around off the ball to break up the defense and get people open to score in the paint. Ray Felton was brought in precisely to put a stop to this nonsense and push up the tempo, but he isn't getting that done consistently, at first only on the road and starting last night in the Rose Garden too. Although he is hardly the only guilty party in that regard.

    Reggie Miller madea comment earlier in the season about just relying on jumpshots and three pointers for your offense, you'll live and you'll die by them if that's all you do. That's why Portland needs to be more consistent with scoring in the paint and getting to the foul line. If we had done it that way, more of those road losses would have been wins.

    by outcast on 2/6/2012 10:21 AM
  12. i think the blazers are in good shape this year. I would have liked them to win a few games on the road but a great home record is the start of a good team. The blazers will figure out the road woes here before to long. West is still wide open. go blazers

    by Miller on 2/6/2012 1:40 PM
  13. you know, MB, even though he didn't tell you he had specifically planned on shooting threes, i had heard that that's what he'd been practicing over the previous days. glad to see Nico come out and have a performance like that, and it certainly was contagious. other guys were hitting them as well. great job from the frenchman.

    LaMarcus' night is almost overshadowed by Nico's (though i doubt he's complaining), but he's really grown into a reliable and dependable threat for us. i fully expect LaMarcus to be voted by coaches to the all-star game, and he deserves it. i know there will always be some discussion between LaMarcus, stat padder Kevin Love and nba darling Blake Griffin. however, there's one key area which sets LaMarcus apart -- he plays defense and does a pretty good job of it. nuff said.

    not good to see Ray go down, but if it's only for a couple of games, we should be able to absorb it. it's ironic that blazer fans find an injury which costs a player a week out of the lineup as a relief. i suppose due to our recent history, that might not be all that surprising.

    these upcoming games are winable. let's get out there and take care of business.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 2/6/2012 3:07 PM
  14. Hey Mike,
    Michael Holton is one funny guy. I like his work. He knows the game, very witty and has a barrel full of one liners. Would you let him know he has a fan base out here? Thanks.

    by Divotking on 2/6/2012 6:36 PM
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