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.