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.
NOTES ABOUT THIS 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.
FOR THE SEASON
* 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