After four seasons without a single triple double but plenty of comparisons to many all-around greats at his position, Nicolas Batum is becoming the kind of player who deserves such comparisons, notching up his second in three games while becoming the best player on the Portland Trail Blazers.
Scottie Pippen, Grant Hill, those were the names we heard mentioned when Batum began his NBA career over four years ago. After averaging 5.4 points, 10.1 points, 12.4 points and 13.9 points, this season, getting 39 minutes on the floor every night, Batum is looking like a multi-talented Small Forward with an ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor, averaging 16.6 points, 4.8 assists, 6.1 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 1.5 steals per game.
In the 101-100 win against the sliding Los Angeles Clippers (life is hard without Chris Paul), Batum scored 20 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and added 12 assists. He is the first Trail Blazer to record at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists since Rod Strickland on Feb. 15, 1995. He’s also only the third player (along with Strickland and Clyde Drexler) to record such a stat line (or better) since the 1985-1986 season.
I can’t promise a triple-double every week, but I try to do something and help the team to win every game. It definitely tastes better when we win. Batum’s previous triple double came in a 95-89 loss against the Washington Wizards.
Even with Chris Paul out once again and Blake Griffin carrying an ankle injury, the Los Angeles Clippers are extremely difficult to put away. Griffin finished the game with 24 points and 10 rebounds; Jamal Crawford, scoring 19 points, had a chance to win the game for the Clippers with 0.9 second left on the clock but missed a 19-foot jumper, not something he regrets.
I’ll take that shot 10 out of 10 and I’ll make it nine out of 10. While the Clippers are losing a tad of distance from the San Antonio Spurs (8 wins in a row) and the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Portland Trail Blazers are in the business of finding a way into the top 8 in the West. At 22-21, they’re 0.5 games behind the Houston Rockets and 1.5 games behind the Utah Jazz. If this team finds another angle beyond the Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge (12 points, 6 rebounds) and Damian Lillard (20 points, 2 assists) to become a consistent offensive contributor, they have a good chance of making up the lost ground.
It’ll come down to probably either J.J. Hickson, who scored the two winning free throw shots in the victory against the Clippers and ended up with 15 points and 7 rebounds, or Wesley Matthews, scoring 18 points despite only 1-5 from beyond the arc. One of them will have to step up more often and join Batum, Aldridge and Lillard in their playoff push, because the bench won’t be bringing any kind of answer or solution to a team looking for its first postseason berth without Brandon Roy.