Dec 13

A Character-Building Win

By mikebarrett Posted in: Spurs
Last month the Trail Blazers were in position to knock off the San Antonio Spurs at the Rose Garden.  They led by as many as 14 in that game, and even led by as many as six in the fourth quarter, before falling victim to the NBA's best regular-season team down the stretch.  Even though the Spurs were without Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, they survived on that night.

On Thursday night, we got a rematch.  Only this time the Spurs were at full strength, and the Trail Blazers certainly weren't.  Wesley Matthews, one of the team's most valuable players, sat out, and Nic Batum, who's still nursing a very sore lower back, played, but was far from 100 percent.  

Call it a step forward in will, in desire, in development, or perhaps all three, as this time the Blazers made the offensive plays down the stretch, got the big defensive stops, and beat San Antonio 98-90.

Damian Lillard was brilliant, scoring a career-high 29 and outplaying Parker, and got some big-time help from his friends.  LaMarcus Aldridge outplayed Tim Duncan, Batum had one of the more gutty efforts of his career, J.J. Hickson posted 12 and 12, and Luke Babbitt provided the punch off the bench with 12 points.

All things considered, you can go ahead and call this Portland's signature win of the season so far.  They certainly hope it's a sign of things to come.  

This home stand, that started with a lackluster loss to the Sacramento Kings, is suddenly looking much better following wins over Toronto, and now over the Spurs.

Not only did Lillard score 29, but added 7 rebounds and 6 assists, and did it on a national stage. He's constantly exceeded expectations this year, and did it again, this time in a true measuring-stick game.  Parker is a handful for everyone, and Lillard was the best point guard on the floor in this game.  That's saying something.  I'm not saying he should be mentioned in the same breath with Parker yet, when talking about his ranking in this league, but he's climbing the ladder.

Batum has had a lot of games where he's posted more impressive stats, but I'm not sure I remember one where he's been tougher, or bigger in the biggest moments.  Clearly uncomfortable most of the night, and in pain, Batum hung with it and delivered in the clutch.

With the Blazers leading by six with 90 seconds left, nothing felt comfortable.  San Antonio is in this position all the time, and usually finds a way to win games like this.  After they quickly cut the lead in half with a three, Batum answered with his lone three of the night, giving Portland a six-point lead again with 1:08 left.  Moments later he blocked Parker's attempt inside, and shortly after that hit two clutch free throws to seal the victory.  Nic showed me something tonight, given he was far from healthy, but still had a huge impact on the outcome.

The bench came up big as well, led by Babbitt.  The second unit combined for 24 points, and enough players came up with enough plays to provide solid support.  That's all they're asked to do.  It was Babbitt, who spread the floor with his long-range threat, and Meyers Leonard with his 8 rebounds, who stood out.

The Blazers are now 2-0 without Matthews in the lineup, and I'm not sure I thought that was possible, even if they were both home games.  Hopefully he continues to make progress and can rejoin the team on Sunday, but it's nice to know this team appears to be able to absorb a huge loss like that and survive- at least for two games.

Sunday night the Trail Blazers host New Orleans, and the pre-season favorite to win Rookie of the Year honors, Anthony Davis. 


  1. I hope you enjoyed the night off from the Broadcast. I certainly missed hearing you and Rice call the game. The TNT guys had more to say about Voodoo donuts than most of the Blazers.

    Batum is clutch. Haters take note. The kid looked like my grandpa at times shuffling stiff around the court with his bad back, and still managed to hit a clutch 3, get a clutch block and steal, and hit clutch free throws down the stretch. There's always room from improvement, but he has a decent game nevertheless.

    Lillard will be the Rookie of the Year, no doubt. Will he be an All-Star is the next question. He certainly played like one tonight.

    Looking forward to seeing you guys on Sunday. Rip City!

    by Blazer Fanatic on 12/14/2012 12:08 AM
  2. Lollards ROY
    Aldridge all-star
    But I saw Meyers Leonard block out on a rebound that he didn't get but went to a team mate because he did. He finished with 8 rebounds. He is making progress and this is what I've been looking for. Congrats to Myers

    by Ancientone on 12/14/2012 12:43 AM
  3. Another note about Batum since it wasn't mentioned in the blog; he had 8 assists tonight and that was a career high.

    by Shem on 12/14/2012 1:06 AM
  4. Mike Barrett wrote and did not wrote bad :

    " Even though the Spurs were without Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, they survived on that night."

    That´s exactly what a real good team must learn to do.

    Blazers must learn to win without Aldridge and also without Lillard. And both Aldridge and Lillard must understand this and must find a way to help the team to do so. This is also a matter of the good players: how can the team still be playing well and win -in the good sense of winning; with no real losers- without them playing.

    Batum must try to understand why he is irregular at times for the sake of trying to be always real good.

    Aldridge would be one of the best ever if he learnt to, at times -but only if necessary- play a bit slow, wait a very short lap of time to build the offensive attack; alternating it with his habitual excellent rapidity.

    by Soopadeajo Sopadeajo on 12/14/2012 5:36 AM
  5. Hey Mike:
    I had to go to work as soon as the game was over, so missed the post show, and all the fun.
    I agree this was the signature win of the season so far. I thought it was the LAL game, and since I want to beat LAL more then anything, it still is, but now that I find that many teams can easily man handle the Lakers, the glamour has worn off. The OKC game was pretty great, but we were not quite ready for them.
    Some of our heavy losses, put growth ahead of wins and in the long run that has helped us.

    I am sure, since you are a type of stat nut, you had noticed that if the Blazers started the first quarter strong, they would run out of gas and lose in the fourth. If they started slow, they often won down the stretch or in overtime LOL; tonight however, they played Portland BB from start to finish, not great all the time but they were competitive and clearly at this moment in time, the best team on the floor.

    by Hg on 12/14/2012 8:22 AM
  6. Blazer Fanatic:
    I thought the TNT announcers did a good job of talking about the Blazers and they almost showed admiration for Lillard and Aldridge the whole night. If you think they neglected talking about the Blazers, you should listen to opposing announcer as I have to on the NBA package. Of course you are right, Mike and Mike are the best in the world, and I always look forward to when the game is on KGW, so I can watch them.

    by Hg on 12/14/2012 8:26 AM
  7. @Ancientone; I seen that Leonard blocked out better, and was more active at getting rebounds, plugging the lanes and lost some of his timidness.

    I also saw Lillard, stop once for that mid range jumper once, although we didn't make it, that is what was determined to be the next step in his growth, so once he gets that down, that will be another big improvement. I am not a BB guru, but even I could tell he rushed his shot as well as going to fast when driving to the rim as to the point that he has little choice, but to put up a shot at the rim, in hopes that he would get a bail out foul.He also actually fought his way out of that Blitz that SAS threw at him and getting a foul on SAS in doing so. Therefore my graduations goes to Leonard and Lillard, or maybe the LL and L as LaMarcus also out preformed himself. Those three offensive fouls was bogus, but it was a good sign that he was being very aggressive. I'M LOVIN IT.

    by Hg on 12/14/2012 8:37 AM
  8. We woke up on Christmas morning also known as draft day. The anticipation building. To our surprise we got a scoring point guard.
    There IS a santa claus.
    Forget the ballot. Forget the voting. We have two allstars in this town.
    Best Christmas ever.

    by the golden ladder on 12/14/2012 8:44 AM
  9. Loved that game. Period!

    by allie-oop on 12/14/2012 9:14 AM
  10. There for a while there was so much get rid of Luke stuff, his 3's and the threat of them opens the middle up for Damien to drive the lane. The bench is starting to have a real positive impact.

    by Ancientone on 12/14/2012 9:22 AM
  11. Nothing much to add to what everyone said about the game, except that in my houshold a certain Spurs player has been re-named Tiago Flopper.

    by David Maclaine on 12/14/2012 1:42 PM
  12. Splitter a.k.a flopper deserves a Christmas card from Stern.

    by the golden ladder on 12/14/2012 4:00 PM
  13. @Hg;
    You are right. A consistent effort until the final buzzer. Blazers won every quarter. 23-26-27-22.
    Pop wanted that one. Blazers were just better last night.

    by Divotking on 12/14/2012 6:18 PM
  14. For those who came by here and didn't get to see Lillard's performance, you're in luck:

    by Shem on 12/14/2012 11:47 PM
  15. Ya know what Mike? the Blazers should watch the film from this game to see HOW they won! As said: "this was a consistent effort until the final buzzer." I wrote my g/f at halftime and she asked why are there so many fouls on Portand? I wrote back to her "It is ok because we are playing tough and even with the fouls we are making a statement to SA that they are not going to get easy hoops! Defense won us this game, as with most others. I was proud of the boys in this one and proud for the fact they made big time shots. Maybe Luke being a 6th man might just be a good idea? Maybe all he needed was playing time with the starters? I sure hope so....

    peace out,

    by daddylogan on 12/15/2012 3:12 AM
  16. The real deal DLill. He brings instant "street cred" to the team. Goes to show you don't have to be a thug to have the swag. His demeanor and skills will get allstar type calls from the refs. The rest of the team can't help but catch some of the fall out.
    There will be no parade this year. We are on our way. The future looks bright.

    by the golden ladder on 12/15/2012 9:07 AM
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