Jan 14

Frenchman, Rhino Step Up in Loss

By Kassandra Posted in: Blazers, Pelicans, Lakers, LaMarcusAldridge, NicolasBatum, Rockets
If the Blazers were destined to lose to the Rockets tonight (107-105 in overtime), someone forgot to tell Nicolas Batum and Craig Smith.

Nicolas was absolutely amazing on this night. Now often, his contributions aren't reflected in the boxscore. Tonight, that's only partly true. Check out his statline: 29 points, 8 rebounds 4 blocks (tying his career high), an assist, a steal, 9-15 from the field, and 6-7 from behind the arc (the six makes are a new career high).

The only puzzling thing is that he barely touched the ball in the last seven of minutes in regulation and in overtime. In the game chat, nearly everyone repeatedly said, "give the ball to Batum." My own tagline: "Feed the Frenchman." I would have liked to seen him with the ball in his hands often during that stretch.

Craig had his best outing of the season, helping keep the struggling Blazers afloat in the second quarter. In fact, he scored 9 of his season-high 11 points in the second stanza. He added 3 rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block. It seemed for a time that the Rockets had no answer for Craig. It also further solidified my confidence in his contributions to this team. He's reliable and consistent. If I hadn't already, I predict some very good things for the "Rhino" in a Blazer uniform.

Ultimately, it was some missed free throws and untimely lapses in execution by the Blazers which sealed the win for the Rockets. Certainly, just another made shot here or there could have shifted the tide in Portland's favor.

The road trip continues with an afternoon contest at New Orleans on Monday (tip-off just a shade after noon). The Hornets are probably a much better team than their Western Conference low record of 3-9 indicates. My feeling is that no game this year will be a gimme. Fortunately, the Blazers have a day and a half off prior to the game.


* Craig's big night came in front of Houston coach Kevin McHale, who is responsible for his "Rhino" nickname from when they were both with Minnesota.

* In addition to his impressive statistical night, Nicolas played a season-high 42 minutes.

* The Blazers had six players in double figures (Nicolas 29, LaMarcus 22, Raymond 13, Craig 11, Jamal 11, Gerald 10).

* The Blazers had 51 bench points.

* Raymond shot 6-12 from the field, did not make a three-pointer, but all six of his misses came from behind the arc.

* LaMarcus' 47 minutes played is a season-high and his 10 rebounds tied a season high, set against the Lakers.

* Portland, which came into the game first in the NBA in free throw shooting, shot just 22-31, or 71 percent.

* Houston center Samuel Dalembert, who came in averaging 6.8 rebounds a game, claimed 12 boards.


* Nicolas is averaging 1.1 blocks per game.

* LaMarcus ranks eighth in the NBA in points per game at 22.8.

* LaMarcus recorded his second double-double of the season against the Rockets.

* The Blazers won the rebounding battle in each of the first five games of the season, but have come up on the short end of the rebounding stat in the past seven games.

* Portland's record in the past six games is 2-4.

* The Blazers are 1-4 on the road.

* The Blazers are 1-3 on the second night of back-to-back games.

So it's two down, four to go on this road trip but, as Nate is infamous for saying: It's all about the next game. How's this sound: Zap the Hornets!


NOTE: Photos courtesy Oregonlive.com. Top - Craig Smith shoots over Samuel Dalembert. Below - Nicolas Batum guards Chase Budinger.

In Kassandra's Words features regular blogs throughout the year. Comments and questions are welcome and encouraged. Seasons begin and end; players come and go; our Blazers are forever. Please follow on twitter: @PDXKass


  1. good blog

    by jamie (guy) on 1/14/2012 10:15 PM
  2. Hey Kassandra:
    I don't know why Nic didn't get the ball down the stretch either, I thought it was a OK, game, but I haven't figured out if Portland is like the Bad luck Bears. It is to the next game. Monty Williams loves us so much he always treats us to another loss LOL.

    Great Blog. I am so happy for Batum.

    by Hg on 1/14/2012 10:58 PM
  3. I was impressed with Nicolas and Craig too. It was strange to listen to the game and we kept asking each other why they weren't passing the ball to Batum. I don't think it was a matter of him not being open. It's like you said, he wasn't open for 12 minutes? That's just not believable to me. If it was a matter of them not running plays for him, that's just not good coaching. This loss more than any of the other ones is just confusing. Great job from Batum and Smith.

    by julianne on 1/15/2012 12:07 PM
  4. @Jamie: thanks. i do what i can!

    @Hg: that seems to be the burning question. i don't know how you explain it. why not give Nico the ball? we went 12 minutes without giving him the ball. we should have been looking for him every time down court. if he cools off, then go back to the pick and roll.

    @Jules: how many times in that 30 minutes or so (real time) did you and i yell "JUST GIVE NIC THE DAMN BALL!" grrr. confusing. Rhino is definitely a keeper!

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 1/15/2012 12:53 PM
  5. Kass, I think Nate needs to tell the guys 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it', but he also needs to believe in that philosophy. This is one of those games where they definitely blew it with their inability to take advantage of Houston's mistakes.

    by blazerdarren77 on 1/15/2012 5:17 PM
  6. Good insight Miss Kass

    Yes we were all screaming get the ball to Nic but it didn't happen, and I really don't mind the ball in the hands of team leader, LaMarcus. I really like our coach, but sometimes I question his play calling.
    I really think that Nic is lacking what I call Eye Of The Tiger, that killer instinct where you're not afraid to take any shot, but he is only 23.

    Really like what I see in Rhino so far. Very tough gritty player that looks like he wouldn't back down to anyone. May put him in some games just for some good hard fouls. I like having that guy coming of the bench, and oh yes he can score some points .
    It's a young season so far....can't wait for much much more .

    by Albert Hoy on 1/15/2012 11:34 PM
  7. Nice blog as always Kass.

    What I don't get is after Craig Smith had his 9 or so points in the 2nd quarter, he missed either one FT or a pair and was instantly taken out, and he was at the time the only thing getting our offense started. Mathews was non-existent yet I believe he got more playing time.

    I thought it was an entertaining game... for watching two teams acting like bottom feeders. I'm really starting to think Portland should start looking for a new coach, at least in the off-season like you said. Getting nervous this season seeing the same things we've seen in the past season, and that is the Blazers losing games they should win because of lack of effort.

    by Herr on 1/16/2012 2:12 AM
  8. @Darren: perhaps this is just one of those, like you said, where we didn't capitalize on houston's mistakes. to be honest, i anticipated a win here, but i had a feeling it would be a close game. we just needed a little something more to get over the hump.

    @Albert: i agree that going through LaMarcus is and should be our first option. i would hope we would have a better grasp of our other options at the same time. i think Nicolas has that eye of the tiger mode sometimes, and i think he had it against houston. i'd like to see him go on a spurt for a few games with performances at -- at least in the neighborhood of -- the level he had against houston. you're right about the Rhino; i don't think he'd back down against anyone. have i mentioned how much i'm loving his contributions?!

    Stephen: when Craig was taken out of the game in the second it was to put LaMarcus into the lineup. i get that, but i think Craig still had a couple or few minutes left in him at that point. we have the option of having both of them on the court at the same time, and i think they coiuld compliment each other well against a lineup such as houston's. anyway, today is another day, and we have a chancet top pick one up here ... in about four hours!

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 1/16/2012 7:49 AM
  9. Hey Kassandra:
    Do you think the Rhino could play the low post while Aldridge played the high.
    I know the Rhino is shorter then most centers but he has the bulk to not be pushed off the low block, and if nothing else would wear their big men down. Aldridge has the strength and enough bulk now to hold his own down there, but for now I don't think he has the endurance. Like he is a short distance runner not a 4 mile a day runner. (see I didn't forget that U run to keep trim). Plus, back to LMA, when he gets tired it affects his shots. Anyway, I love Thomas on the low blocks on defense, but the high post on offense, but I think I would like Lamarcus on the high post on offense and defense. he is not great at pushing the opponents of the block as Rhino is and he doesn't really like posting up low.
    So as you said, they could play together, when Thomas is out.
    You preach about letting players play their best position and use their best skills, LMA is great at outside shooting and open court running, to play him in the low post is taking him out of his natural position. Well Miss Kassandra u easily convinced me that we could play Rhino and LMA together, do you think you could convince Nate?

    by Hg on 1/16/2012 8:44 AM
  10. i'm pretty sure that it would depend on the matchup. Craig is 6'7 along with 265 pounds. what he gives up in height he makes up for in bulk. i was just checking out his nba.com bio and i'm now convinced of this: we are greatly underutilizing Craig. three seasons ago with minnesota, he averaged 10.1 points in just under 20 minutes a game. now add this: his lowest season fg percent is .531 in his rookie season. he's never shot under that. in fact, this season, he's shooting a career high .579 from the field. i'd really like to see him get a bit bigger of an opportunity. i fear that won't happen with Nate clinging as tightly to his rotation as he has been. imo, he's already earned some extra time on the court.

    i'd hate to take LaMarcus off the low block simply because in order for him to be the best he can, he needs to have versatility to his game. i think he's going back to settling for jumpoers instead of driving to the hole. i don't know if he's trying to pace himself throughout the season, but he needs to be the player we need him to be.

    i guess to answer your question, i think we could use Craig to anchor the middle with LaMarcus at pf, or the other way around. as i said; i think it kind of depends on the matchups.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 1/16/2012 9:30 AM
  11. Touché
    LMA said on OR+Live that he was going to have to go inside more to give our team an inside threat. So as usual you are right.

    Oh! you be out of school today, great you need to rest and watch the game if you can.

    by Hg on 1/16/2012 9:59 AM
  12. no classes today, but the game is only available on league pass, which i refuse to buy. i'll be streaming the audio though.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 1/16/2012 10:11 AM
  13. Hey Kassandra:
    No 48 minutes, but at least we won.

    by Hg on 1/16/2012 2:47 PM
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