Once in a while, you hear about how Nicolas Batum is going to be one of the greatest Small Forwards in the NBA. While that moment hast yet to happen, he did have a huge game as the Portland Trail Blazers became the next time to make life very difficult on the road for the defending NBA champions, the Miami Heat.
While the story in these games is often about the higher-profile losers, losing consecutive games for the third time this season and also within the past six weeks, there’s a lot to be proud about for the Portland Trail Blazers, especially when it comes to Nicolas Batum, as the Frenchman is enjoying his best NBA season so far, living up, or getting close to it, to the potential people in the Northwest keep talking about.
While it’s still hard to see him as the next Scottie Pippen, Batum is certainly improving and improving when it comes to both scoring and all-around skills. He finished with 28 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists against the Heat and is averaging a career high 16.6 points despite not matching his rise in field goal attempts with his field goal percentage, so far at 42.8%. He made 8-15 against the Heat.
There wasn’t any special force or help from the bench. It was just a great game from Batum, Aldridge (20 points, 15 rebounds) and Wesley Matthews, finishing with 18 points but more importantly, the three pointers that one the Blazers the game, giving them a 91-90 lead with 26 seconds left on the clock. The Miami Heat went with Ray Allen, who missed a three point shot (finished with 15 points). LaMarcus Aldridge hit 1 of 2 from the line, and Mario Chalmers missed the potential game winning shot.
The fourth quarter was a big problem for the Heat, once again looking tired at the end of road games, dropping to 7-8 away from home this season after two consecutive losses. The Blazers enjoyed a 24-10 run in the final eight minutes as the Heat simply couldn’t keep up with Batum and Lillard (10 points, 8 assists), including three turnovers that turned into 8 points. The Heat turned the ball over 17 times, leading to 19 points by the Blazers.
LeBron James had his worse game of the season when it came to scoring, finishing with only 15 points, going only 6-16 from the field on a very rare sub .500 day for him. Did we mention Batum and Aldridge? Having to play both them and George on consecutive nights had its effect on the man people look up to do everything. He did almost make the triple double, finishing with 10 rebounds and 9 assists. His 33 game streak of 20 points or more is over, which was the longest since George Gervin in the 1981-1982 season with 45 games.
Chris Bosh was the go to guy for the Heat, scoring 29 points, a game high. It didn’t really help. The Heat looked tired on defense and lazy on offense, especially when it came to Dwyane Wade and LeBron James trying to create their own shots, as the two combined for 33 points and 12-34 from the field. The game looked much better when James kept looking for Bosh and Allen, but at some point, all “complexity” in the Heat’s offense disappeared, and they began making the same mistakes and predictable plays that have cost them during their worst performances this season.