mikebarrett

Dec 01

Batum Nails Game Winner in Cleveland

By mikebarrett Posted in: Cavaliers
Forget the records, the players, the situation- this was a heck of an NBA basketball game.  It saw 16 lead changes, 20 ties, and went double overtime.  Considering both teams were playing the second of a back to back, and were totally out of gas at the end, it was also a very well-played game.  

Most importantly for the Trail Blazers, they got the win.  It was their first win on this brutally-long road trip, and I can't really remember a situation in the last few years when they've needed a win more than they needed this one.  

Call us cynics, but during the last few commercial breaks during this game, Mike Rice and I said repeatedly how difficult it would be if Portland were to lose this game.  We never talked about how great it would be if they won it.  That goes back to the whole mentality of playing not to lose instead of playing to win.  As negative as that thinking is, I don't think we were alone in approaching this situation in that fashion.

This thing went back and forth, and had more momentum swings than any game I can remember in the last couple of seasons.  Of course, all of that, and most of this game, was a blur in the closing seconds.  I'm not even going to try and go back and rehash every big shot, every huge possession, and every turning point.

The thing that sticks with me, at the end anyway, is that Nic Batum was a split second away from having the game winning bucket at the end of the first overtime.  After review, the replay confirmed the ball was still in his hands when the clock struck zero.  It's rare that a player gets a second chance.  Batum got one on this night, and the second time he made it count.

Batum has really struggled in the last few games, and his confidence (along with that of his teammates) wasn't exactly at a high.  He takes his off nights very hard, and therefore it was great to see him come through (twice).  

There were so many other players, and moments, though that were necessary for the Blazers to even be in a position to win this game.  First of all, the bench scored 29 points.  If you've paid any attention so far you know that's a huge number for Portland's second unit.  

Joel Freeland, who is coming along, was very efficient in his time on the floor.  He scored 8 points in his 12 minutes, and provided physical defense.  Nolan Smith, who was totally out of the rotation just two games ago, had 6 points and 2 assists.  Will Barton scored 7.

Before the game we profiled the matchup of two of the top rookies in the NBA- Damian Lillard and Dion Waiters.  Waiters was selected with the 4th pick by Cleveland, and, of course, Lillard went 6th.  Lillard won this matchup hands down.  He scored 24 points, also breaking out of a slump, and added 11 assists, 6 rebounds, and 4 steals.  It was a get-well game for Lillard, as well as Batum.

LaMarcus Aldridge, who actually had a solid game at Boston on Friday night, was good in his matchup against Anderson Varejao in this game.  Aldridge ended with 21 points, 9 rebounds, and played with four fouls for the entire fourth quarter, and most of two overtimes before finally picking up his fifth.  That was huge.

I don't know if fans realize how bad Wesley Matthews' right thumb is hurting him right now.  Not only is his thumb swollen and giving him fits, but his right elbow won't fully extend.  He won't talk about it though.  And, he simply will not miss a game.  He's never missed one in his career.  So, while he went just 3 of 12 from the field, he scored 11 points and picked up a career-high 10 assists.

For this young team, still developing and learning, this was a much-needed win (did I already mention that?)  We saw two different lineups in this game, two groups of Blazers, that had never played together in a regular-season game.  Terry Stotts is experimenting with different players, different lineups, and they won during that process.  That's meaningful.

So, it's just a win, against a team that only had four wins coming into the night.  But, given they won in Atlanta on Friday, it felt like a bigger win than you would have previously thought.  And, given what Portland has been through on this trip, forget altogether who it came against.  

They just needed a victory.

Now, it's on to Charlotte, with a renewed confidence and belief.  Then, we'll go to Indiana.  Then, at long last, we'll come home.  It was a step in the right direction, and by Monday night it'll be a distant memory.  That's life in the NBA.

 

19 Comments

  1. Great win and a big sigh of relief!!

    by dockaren on 12/1/2012 10:10 PM
  2. Thank you Mike: The whole game was a thriller to watch. Cleveland has had a rough road trip schedule that gave them a worst record than they deserve.

    I am so tickled that Freeland is getting on track, along with Barton, and of course Leonard. The Whole bench did a terrific job last night and tonight.

    I spent part of the time thinking we were going to win, part of the time thinking we were going to lose and part of the time not knowing who would win. I was feeling bipolar.

    Great win, it wore me out, Good Night.

    by Hg on 12/1/2012 11:20 PM
  3. Great win when we needed one desperately, lose this one and an 0-7 trip was a looming possibility. Great to see Nic bust out after a few subpar games and great to see Damian Liilard come back big time from his worst game of the season!

    I was impressed with Tyler Zeller though. He appears to be more NBA ready at this point than Meyers Leonard. Whether that continues remains to be seen...
    --
    don

    by dgpdx on 12/2/2012 2:33 AM
  4. Don:
    Do you mean that the rim checks on Batum's dunks didn't bother you? About all Batum could do about that was laugh it off, nevertheless he sure made up for it. not only with the winning shot but some key defensive moves throughout the game.

    What is going on with our free throws? Is it just temporary? lack of concentration? or a more series problem? Our free throws is almost as bad as out team D which was mildly decent tonight.

    by Hg on 12/2/2012 4:03 AM
  5. Loved the win no matter what.
    I wish they would stop playing nail-biters.
    Glad Nic got the end win as I was beginning to wonder about him.
    Loved the bench work this time.
    Advice to Luke Babbitt: Reinvent yourself. Learn how to post up, rebound and slam it in. This team does not need anymore players shooting from out in 3pt land. Unless of course, you are spot on. Work in the paint is what we need and you have the height to be there.

    by allie-oop on 12/2/2012 7:53 AM
  6. I didn't get to see the end of the game, I watch it on live streaming and it stopped with 3 min. to go. Grrrr. The second unit actually looked like pro's last night. Yes Hg those rim checks and the weak floating lay up Nick missed did bother me.

    Again they came out in the first quarter as if defense were some strange word that they had never heard of before.

    by Ancientone on 12/2/2012 10:10 AM
  7. Batum's game winner:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mym6UVURna8

    Damian Lillard's performance:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0IiUng_RLM

    by Shem on 12/2/2012 1:24 PM
  8. Thanks Shem. With 3min in regulation live streaming just stopped so I didn't get to see one of the more exciting finishes of the year.

    by Ancientone on 12/2/2012 3:17 PM
  9. You're welcome Ancientone.

    Oh, you guys should read this about Lillard from Kenton Wong:

    http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/52116/lillard-is-valuable-asset-for-blazers

    This doesn't include last night's game which help his numbers and remember it's including his shooting woes in Detroit, Washington, and Boston. Impressive stuff about Lillard.

    by Shem on 12/2/2012 3:40 PM
  10. Hi Mike,
    A game is never decided by one play. There were so many good plays in that game from both teams.
    We got away with one there. I'm not talking about Batum's last minute shot. When the big kid Z was called for traveling for passing to himself. He was absolutely hammered by JJ. Clearly a foul. The ref's missed that one. Goes to show it all evens out over time.
    Three overtime wins already this season. Says a lot to me about the character of our boys. They don't play mistake free basketball. Plenty of holes at times on defense. They don't quit. They have found a way to dig out close games. Wes calls it grit.
    10 assists is that a career high?
    A complete team effort. Top to bottom. Good coaching moves throughout.
    Well done men. It was fun to watch.

    by Divotking on 12/2/2012 5:50 PM
  11. well, i'm glad we finally got a win, even though we had to work an extra 10 minutes for it. i think it we put Nicolas in that position more often, he'll come through on the 1st try.

    i disagree with Divotking above me there. we have quit. we are not the team we want to be. in fact, we're not even close. we still give up on many occasions. our bench stepped up and guys stepped up when we needed them to. i am hoping Joel's on an nba track right now. Lord knows that it can't be easy to establish yourself from england to the nba, but i think we're seeing the turning point for him and that is only going to help.

    btw, Divotking, officially, 11 assists, and it ties Damian's career high. so, speaking of Damian, maybe we got spoiled by the first few games, but he's been somewhat disappointing this road trip. question is, will he learn from this. yes, i know he scored a game-high 24 points, but there were obviously times when he should have deferred. maybe not so much last night, but in the first four games of the trip. he may be destined to be a superstar, but he's not there yet.

    a win is a win and, at this point, that's all that matters. the Bobcats of this year are not the Bobcats of last year. they don't back down and they never think they are supposed to lose. this is not going to be a gimme game by a longshot. we've got to play 48 ... or 53 ... or 58 minutes to win. heck, we're gonna have to do that against everyone. no game this year is a gimme.

    two games left on this road trip. do we win both? do we lose both? do we split? there are so many questions at this point i don't wish to ask more.

    one game at a time. we must beat charlotte monday night. that's the next step & that is the only thing about which to worry.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 12/3/2012 12:14 AM
  12. btw, if Wesley can't be effective because of his thumb, it's time for him to sit. i know he hasn't missed a game in his professional career, but the needs of the team come first. Wesley's stubbornness -- and yes, THAT is what it is -- is hurting the Blazers; not helping them. he needs to heal, not keep playing, being ineffective & hurting the team's chances of wining.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 12/3/2012 12:32 AM
  13. Hey Miss Kassandra, glad to hear from you, even if it is late Sunday night or early Monday morning, after the cramming for the finals are over; I hope you do well.

    I agree with you that we can only play one game at a time and this is by no means a turning point. But, thankfully we won a game that was much needed; our lesson learned is we have to play the team not the record as you suggested with the Bobcats. and as Cleveland learned from the Blazer game.

    What you have said about Lillard is true, but with insinuating circumstances,(Wow, that is a 50 cent bunch of words for me), The opponents on this road trip has put a big Bulls eye on Lillard; with LMA having back spasms, Batum having the flu and Matthews having his thumb up--in the are LOL, and won't take himself out of the game, made it quite easy for the opponents, Stop Lillard and you stop the Blazers, sounds familiar when all we had was LMA.
    But you are right, he is not an All Star yet and he did make many rookie mistakes. Like when he is leading a fast break, he never passes to anybody on either side of him and the opponents knows this and just zero in on him and if he doesn't learn to pass off the rest of his team mates won't stay in the fast break. I think Wesley way guilty of that last year.

    I do hope like you that Joel has turned the corner in the NBA, because he is already an established player. Getting Nolan and Barton in the game to replace Matthews was a big help because they can create off the dribble for themselves and others and that made Lillard shine a little.

    Lillard and Matthews are here to stay, and although like Batum they still have lots to prove, so as being Blazer players I support them and give them thumbs up. They have a long ways to go, but like you, I am glad they took another step in getting better then what they were.

    by Hg on 12/3/2012 9:08 AM
  14. I'm afraid I agree with Kassandra on Wesley's injury. I'm a firm believer that all this macho stuff about playing through the pain does more harm than good. If the system requires our guards to hit the open three when they get it, and Wesley's percentage on those shots drops from "solid" to "poor" he's hurting the team. I wonder if all the extra time the coach is finding for Nolan and Will isn't a sign that he's eager for someone to plug into the gap if he decides that Wes really needs to sit down and get healthy.
    All that said, I was encouraged by the Cleveland win. As a Batum fan I was thrilled by his game-winner. He needed that after the missed dunks and lay-up. I wanted to see the younger bench guys play more, and Barton, Freeland, Smith and Babbitt all got decent looks. Babbitt was in one of his weird streaks of missing the threes we know he can hit, but the others all contributed. It was good to win one when so many of the bounces went the wrong way. If the team could just get its free-throw percentage back to where it should be, we'd be in a lot more of these games. That was a key factor in our swift descent in the Boston game. Early on, as we slipped into a double-digit lead, I kept thinking, "We'd be right there, just four points back, if we'd hit a solid number of free throws." I have no idea why so many good shooters are off. Wesley has an excuse now, but was struggling even before he messed up his thumb. We're still letting every team we play shoot like champions in the first quarter, but at least we're starting to do better on that score as the game continues. There's reason for hope, if only because expectations have plunged awfully low.

    by David Maclaine on 12/3/2012 10:58 AM
  15. Kass;
    It's the coaches decision who plays and who doesn't. He will ask a player with an injury "can you go?" If the answer is yes still coaches decision. I see too many players that will hold themselves out with minor injuries for fear of getting beat or hurting their stats.
    I was asking Mike if 10 assists was a career high for our defensive stopper, iron man, hardest working guy in the gym, emotional leader. Wes Matthews.
    We don't need him to score in bunches. We need his character. His heart.
    He doesn't need to have the rock. He doesn't care about stats. I'd take him with two broken thumbs, a bad ankle and a bloody nose. He would still be on the floor doing everything he could to win. He's about winning.

    by Divotking on 12/3/2012 12:39 PM
  16. WOW !!! GREAT GREAT GREAT game. Found a way to pull it out. 4-0 in overtime. Contributions from top to bottom. It wasn't mistake free. It wasn't solid throughout. It was gritty. Too many big plays by too many players. The Blazers are ragged at times but a lot of fun to watch. Well done men!

    by Divotking on 12/3/2012 6:52 PM
  17. @Divotking: Well said about Wes! A players contribution isn't always about stats.
    --
    don

    by dgpdx on 12/3/2012 9:02 PM
  18. @Hg: No, Nic's flubbed dunks didn't bother me that much. He's still struggling to become a reliable scorer every game but he does so many other good things on the court. I'm sure he'll be a lot more careful about his dunks for a while ;-)
    --
    don

    by dgpdx on 12/3/2012 9:04 PM
  19. Mike - I've been dying to ask you this for days now, so I hope you have time to read this on the plane.

    Was that blond woman screaming behind you at the Cleveland game as shrill and obnoxious sounding in person as she sounded on my TV, through your headset? You guys really took a bullet for us fans that night. TWO overtimes with that noise beating that back of your brain... wow. Well done. Those ear phones must be air craft carrier, flight deck certified. "Where's the foul... Where's the foul... Where's the foul...?!?!" Just painful.

    by Blazer Fanatic on 12/4/2012 1:49 AM
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