Shortly after the third quarter began, I scrolled down to look at the boxscore. Nicolas Batum had seven points, seven assists and five rebounds. He was on pace for his second triple-double in three games. But just after the half, it's much too early to think about such things; even though the Blazers had just established a double-digit lead. Wasn't it?
You're probably not reading this blog to get the news. After all, by now we should all know about the thrilling one-point win over the Clippers in our house. We held a lead at halftime and at the end of three quarters.
The Clippers stormed back in the fourth and held a nine-point lead with three minutes left. A three from Damian Lillard, a J.J. Hickson dunk, a three-point play from Wesley Matthews and a couple clutch free throws from Hickson and, suddenly, the Blazers were on top, 101-100.
But 45 seconds remained. In a game going down to the wire, that's an eternity. Nicolas had had a spectacular second half. His statline at the time was 20 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds and a block. A couple seconds later, he intercepted a Matt Barnes pass, then lost the ball on the ensuing possession. The Clippers were to have the ball with no pesky shot clock about which to worry and only down by one. Nicolas was still a rebound away from a triple-double. It looked like, while he had had the type of game about which school children dream, he wouldn't quite get the chance to get that last single stat.
NBA-dot-com's verifiable play-by-play of the Blazers run to win the game.
Who cares though, right? As long as his team gets the win, who gives a crapola about the statline? Obviously, the win is the priority.
Now, without Chris Paul -- out for his third straight game due to injury (reports are that he'll be out tonight's game against the Blazers as well), the Clippers wanted to find Blake Griffin, but the Blazers sandwiched him under the basket. The option on the play would fall to sixth man candidate and former Blazer Jamal Crawford.
The first try resulted in a drive by Crawford where the ball seemed to roll out of his hands, landed on the ground and ended in a jump ball with Nicolas. Somehow, Crawford won the tap. He ended up with the ball on the right side of the basket and took an 18-footer with a couple seconds left which Nicolas contested. The ball hit the iron and popped out to the side. There is was, the Blazers had beaten the team with the third best record in the league. When Crawford took his shot, Nicolas still had nine rebounds. For all intents and purposes, he had an incredible game ...
But while there was less than a second left, the story of this night was not done. It was not complete. There was something left.
When Crawford's shot leaped off the rim and back to the direction from which it came, Nicolas leapt up, secured it with his two long arms in the air, and brought it down to a cradle. He was credited with his 10th rebound with 0.1 second on the clock. In other words, Nicolas could not have held us in more suspense as he earned -- and earned is such the appropriate word -- the second triple-double of his career. That was the last instant he could have done it. Leave it to the French to have a flair for the dramatic!
''I can't promise a triple-double every week, but I try to do something and help
the team to win every game.''
-- Nicolas, to reporters after the game.
Nicolas earned his first career triple-double on January 21st. Five days later, he earned his second. He is one of three players tied for triple-doubles this season (with Jose Calderon of the Raptors and LaBron James of the Heat). The Celtics' Rajon Rondo is the only one better, with five.
I'm a girl who very much must see evidence to believe it. I don't buy into rumor, rhetoric nor assumption, nor do I believe someone for the mere sake that they may think something is true simply because they said it, nor do I just believe everything someone tells me on the internet just because they say it's true. Either you prove it to me or I may have use for nor time to waste on information.
Nicolas was still holding on to the game ball as he left the Rose Garden.
So, while I believed the boxscore I was seeing next to the chat box on the Blazers site, I had to make sure the official NBA boxscore wasn't going to change one of the rebounds to a loose ball or something. I went and checked it out. Then I went and checked out a couple of other stats on the NBA-dot-com statsheet. I noticed a pattern and did a bit of research. It was an interesting notation pertinent to Nicolas' big night and season.
If you take the five major statistics -- points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots -- and you look at the players who averaging at least a full point in each category -- you see something. There are just six NBA players who are averaging at least 1.0 in each of those five stat categories. There are a whole lot who are doing it in four of the five, but only six who possess such a talented all-around game that none of their major stats dip below 1.0 per stat, per game.
Of those six, one is a Blazer -- Nicolas. I'm sure this seems an obscure stat, but in a world of obscure stats, this is as impressive as any.
Nicolas is averaging 16.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks. To me, this shows that he is a threat to hit a double-double or even a triple-double any given night. We know Nicolas is a solid defender, especially when matched against wing players (his defensive stats only drop when he is asked to guard those players outside his natural positions).
By the way the other 1.0-plus statline players are Joakim Noah of the Bulls, Marc Gasol of the Grizzlies, Al Jefferson of the Jazz, Josh Smith of the Hawks and Thaddeus Young of the 76ers.
While I admit I am biased, it sure looks like all-star team injury replacement material to me. It only shows how far Nicolas has come since those early days when then-General Manager Kevin Pritchard labeled him a "project."
Two seasons ago, I lamented on this blogger network the advancements made by Nicolas in his first three seasons. You can find that blog here: Evolution of a 'Project'
Nicolas has come a long way since even those days. Many said he is not worth the huge contract he is earning now. My response is "Are you out of your insane mind?" He is completely worth every penny which, of course, is not mine to spend. If it were up to me, there would have been no trepidation. It was clear he was headed to this point in his career.
In short, Nicolas is reliable. He's consistent and he's taken the next step in his career -- wait, no, not the next step, he skipped a step, and now we have one of the top small forwards in the Western Conference.
It kind of makes you wonder, how are Darrell Arthur and Joey Dorsey doing right now (the Blazers traded their draft rights to the Rockets for Nicolas on draft day 2008)?
By the way, Nicolas doesn't think the triple-double against the Wizards counts since it came in a loss. I absolutely love the humility but, with all due respect to Nicolas, it does count! Blazers fans are counting it for sure.
But, admittedly, wins count more than stats and Nicolas knows that. He's just 24 and has many, many years left in the NBA. I wish for all of them to be in a Blazers uniform. What we have is a guy with desire and passion who is doing everything he can to win. That's right, Nicolas just wants to win; period.
I say if he gets another triple-double or two along the way then so be it ... though he'll only count it if it comes in a win.
In Kassandra's Words features periodic 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