Nicolas Batum powers Blazers over Clippers in OT as Portland continues habit … – OregonLive.com
LOS ANGELES – The Portland Trail Blazers are starting to make a habit of pulling off double-digit comebacks.
As in, the how-did-they-do-it comebacks are starting to become habitual: a behavior repeated regularly enough that it starts to occur unconsciously.
“We’ve comeback enough where we know we have a chance if we do the right things,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “It may or may not happen, but I think the belief is always there. When you have that belief I think it’s easier to be composed.”
And yet the Blazers’ league-leading fifteenth victory after trailing by at least 10 points may have been the most improbable yet. Portland erased a 10-point deficit in the final 2:38 to force overtime where it pulled out a 98-93 over the Los Angels Clippers Wednesday night at Staples Center.
Portland’s comeback formulas are rarely duplicated. On Wednesday, it was a mixture of gritty defense, some good luck and a whole lot of Nicolas Batum.
Batum finished with 20 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two blocks. His impressive stat line only tells a portion of the story. He scored or assisted on the Blazers last 19 points, he hit the game-tying three to force overtime and then added the dagger in the extra session to seal the win.
“To put together a game like he just had against a quality opponent making big plays,” Stotts said. “…not just the shots, I mean making big plays. That’s what Nic is able to do.”
It was an off night for the Blazers in many ways. Damian Lillard set a career-high with 18 rebounds, but shot 1-for-13 and went over 50 minutes without a field goal. LaMarcus Aldridge went 12-for-30 from the floor to get his 29 points.
Portland needed every bit of Batum’s brilliance as Clippers guards Chris Paul (36 points, 12 assists) and J.J. Redick (26 points) were dominant for much of the night.
The Blazers’ win didn’t come without a little help from the Clippers either. It all started when Los Angeles went 0-for-8 from the free throw line down the stretch.
Traling 83-75 with with just over four minutes left, Portland decided to intentionally foul Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, sending a 40-percent free throw shooter to the line.
Jordan missed six straight free throws and Glen Davis added two misses of his own, leaving the door open for the Blazers. But Portland didn’t exactly jump at the opportunity. Instead the Blazers rushed three-pointers and clanged jumpers. When the Clippers finally subbed Jordan out two minutes later the lead hadn’t moved. Portland had successfully mucked up the game, but it hadn’t made up any ground.
“We weren’t able to convert at the other end. We were still down eight with 2:50-something to go,” Stotts said of the Hack-A-Jordan strategy. “It changed the rhythm of the game. It changed the rhythm of their offense.”
With the Clippers offense out of sorts, Batum seized the moment.
The Blazers’ small forward attacked the rim, drew a foul and hit two free throws. Then he grabbed a defensive board, leading to an Aldridge jumper that pulled Portland within six with just over two minutes to play.
Two possessions later, Batum came away with a steal and found Matthews at the top of the key for a three that cut the Clippers lead to 85-82. After a Redick layup pushed the lead back to five, Batum found Arron Afflalo for a quick two inside.
With under a minute to play, the Blazers forced a Reddick miss, Lillard snatched his 15th rebound and fired a pass ahead for Batum that was nearly a game ending turnover.
“Hedo (Turkoglu) almost stole it,” Batum said. “I didn’t want it to go out so I took it and I looked for the pass and (Aldridge) said ‘Shoot it.’ So I shot it. I made it”
Splash. Tie game.
Paul had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, but his runner barely rimmed out and Jordan, unsure of how much time was left, didn’t tip in the miss.
In overtime, the Batum show continued. After the Clippers took a two point lead Batum hit two free throws and then tossed two alley-oops to Lillard and Aldridge to give the Blazers a four point edge.
Los Angeles responded, tying the game at 93 and letting Batum put the finishing touches on the wild victory.
He threw a third straight lob, which Aldridge dunked to put the Blazers up two. Then as Reddick attacked the paint, Batum charged from behind and swatted his layup attempt hard off the glass.
Portland clung to a two point lead and Batum was determined to finish off the Clippers himself. He ran a high pick and roll with Aldridge and when the defense sagged, following the roll man, Batum stepped into a top of the key three-pointer.
Batum’s swish sealed the game.
“I got to do a little bit of everything on the court,” Batum said of his Swiss, er French, Army Knife role. “I know I can assist, I can rebound, I can score. So that’s what I try to do at the end of the game.”
Finally finding a rhythm late in games is starting to become routine for the Blazers. Wednesday’s win was the second time in the last three games Portland has overcome a double-digit deficit and the 15th time this season. The Blazers are the only team in the league with a winning record when trailing after three quarters.
The late rallies don’t feel like flukes. It feels like the Blazers have developed a habit.
“I think winning breeds winning. It feeds on itself,” Stotts said. “Just as much as losing can go the other way. You don’t want to be complacent, but it certainly fuels the belief.”