If you’re waiting for this year’s Portland Trail Blazers squad to give in and settle for a lottery pick, you’re looking in the wrong place. “Give up” is not a part of this team’s vocabulary.
Portland started last week off with another loss to the lowly Washington Wizards, extending its losing streak to six games. Their last win had come against the Miami Heat, and as triumphant as it may have been at the time, it seemed like it occurred ages ago.
With a home game against Indiana, as well as a back-to-back against the Lob City Clippers, the Blazers’ chances at breaking the losing slump seemed bleak; however, bleak it was not and Portland was able to get back to its winning ways with a 100-80 (Chalupas!) win over the Pacers.
The marquee Saturday/Sunday matchups against the Clippers still loomed, but Portland was back to .500 after watching its record deteriorate over the past couple weeks.
Even when Clippers point guard Chris Paul doesn’t suit up, Los Angeles is a force to be reckoned with. Sporting one of the best records in the league, Lob City still has the likes of Blake Griffin, Caron Butler, Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe, to name a few. On top of all that, playing a home game against them, then flying to LA to take them on the very next night, is a less-than-ideal scenario for the Blazers.
Portland made the most of its home game and put on a show for the crowd at the Rose Garden Saturday night. Down 100-91 with 2:38 to play, Portland seemed to be headed to another loss. However, riding a three by Damian Lillard and two clutch free throws by JJ Hickson, Portland outlasted the Clippers 101-100.
On the last shot of the game, a mid-range jumper from Jamal Crawford clanked the back rim and Nicolas Batum grabbed his 10th rebound of the game, sealing his second career triple double (the first came earlier in the week against Washington).
Talk about a wild ending.
The magic did not carry over to the next night, as Portland seemed gassed from the get-go and couldn’t keep pace with the up-tempo Clippers, dropping the second game 96-83. Ending the week at 2-2 was a very welcome sight for a team that had just endured a six-game losing streak.
Now, to the weekly awards.
First Star: Nicolas Batum (1/26: W vs. LA Clippers)
Week in and week out Nic Batum continues to prove his worth to the Trail Blazers, and his recent production is earning him every penny of that new contract. It’s also earning him the respect of his teammates, including youngster Damian Lillard.
In this past week alone, Batum notched his first and second career triple doubles. One in a loss against the Washington Wizards, in which Batum wasn’t as thrilled about the achievement since the Blazers lost, and the second one came in a win on Saturday night against the Clippers.
This edition of the Batum triple double was much more meaningful as it came in a victory, and as soon as Nic grabbed his 10th rebound of the game—as time expired—he didn’t stop clutching the basketball. Grinning from ear to ear, you could tell this feat meant a lot more to the forward from France.
In 41 minutes Saturday night, Batum scored 20 points on 7-of-15 from the floor—including 4-of-9 from beyond the arc—and he shot 2-for-2 from the charity stripe. He also added 12 assists, 10 rebounds, one steal and a block to power the Blazers to the victory.
Rip City is glad to have Nic back in black and red, and he certainly is making good on his new contract.
Second Star: JJ Hickson (1/23: W vs. Indiana)
A double-double machine, Hickson was back at it last Wednesday night against the Pacers, helping Portland bust out of the 6 game losing streak.
In 30 minutes of play, Hickson dropped 14 points on an incredible 7-of-10 from the floor. He also added 13 rebounds and three assists in the Blazers’ 100-80 win over visiting Indiana.
Hickson’s high energy style of play is evident each time he takes the court, and it never looks as though the forward takes any time off. He’s been a pleasant surprise for the Trail Blazers since last year, and while it will take a lot to keep him around, Rip City is hoping Hickson is in for the long haul.
Third Star: LaMarcus Aldridge (1/27: L @ LA Clippers)
Portland’s All-Star continues to log quality minutes on a nightly basis, and in a game that saw the Blazers in a hole early, he continued to impress.
Sunday’s matchup with the Clippers was more a show of what L.A. could do after a loss than Portland capitalizing after a big win.
Aldridge did everything he could to keep Portland competitive, but it ultimately proved to not be enough as the Clippers cruised to a 96-83 victory.
In 39 minutes, LaMarcus scored 21 points on 9-of-14 from the floor and 3-of-4 from the free throw line. He also added 11 rebounds, four assists, one steal and a block as he proved to be Portland’s only bright spot on Sunday.
Dunk of the Week: Damian Lillard vs. Washington
Lillard put his dunking ability on display last Monday night as he posterized Nene in the 4th quarter.