Blazers fall to Suns 118-113 despite big game from Nicolas Batum
The Portland Trail Blazers lost on Wednesday night to the Phoenix Suns 118-113 after trailing by as much as 25 points in the second quarter. Eric Bledsoe had a game high 33 points.
But the story of the game for the Blazers was that Nicolas Batum had his best game of the year. This loss was not unexpected, on the road in an already tough match-up for the Blazers without LaMarcus Aldridge. But Batum looked like the Batum of the summer in the FIBA World Cup. He was attacking the basket, he launched 3’s without thinking and was aggressive on the boards.
Batum’s blew through his previous season-high of 17 points and finished with a double-double of 27 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Batum was huge in the comeback effort. During the fourth quarter, the Blazers even held the lead for a time and Batum was a big reason why. He gave them their first lead since the score was 25-25 with a 3-pointer and then pushed the lead to five points with another one with 2:21 left.
But he missed a crucial free-throw in the final minute of the game. What looked like an embarrassing blowout in the first half had a fantastic finish. Batum had a chance to tie the game after Phoenix’s PJ Tucker split a pair of free-throws. But Batum missed the back end, giving the Suns a chance to extend the lead back to 3 points, forcing the Blazers to have to take a 3-pointer, which they never got to take. Damian Lillard’s heel hit the sideline coming down after catching a Steve Blake pass that sailed a little far.
But if a loss is what to the Suns in January is what it takes for the Blazers to get the old Batum back, then it’s fine.
Listening to the audio from Batum tonight via TrailBlazers.com’s Casey Holdahl, he doesn’t want to hear that. He focusing only on the free-throw that he missed that could have tied the game with 15 seconds left.
But this was by far Batum’s best game and it wasn’t against abominations such as the Sixers or Knicks. The Suns are in the playoff picture as of right now and play a relentless style that’s going to take advantage of every mistake. Eric Bledsoe was a menace on the defensive end and so was PJ Tucker. The Suns scored 17 points of 15 Blazers turnovers.
The Blazers also went over six minutes in the second half without scoring which put them behind the eight ball, forcing them to desperately comeback. Matthews and Batum flashed some nice two-man game and Thomas Robinson was a monster in the fourth quarter defensively, finishing with six points, seven rebounds and two blocks. For another fourth quarter, Robinson was a positive influence on the defensive end.
- The Blazers almost won this game tonight with Lillard going 2/10 from the 3-point line. He made an effort to attack the rim and get to the foul line, leading the Blazers with eight free-throws. But Bledsoe outplayed him tonight on both ends and was a pest on the defensive end all night. Bledsoe also shot a game-high 15 free-throws.
- The Suns bench dominated Portland’s. Isaiah Thomas cooked the Blazers with 27 points and 4 assists in 28 minutes of play. Gerald Green poured in 12 points. Thomas Robinson led the Blazers bench with six and Will Barton scored five. The Blazers took 32 3-pointers on the night but their bench only attempted three with CJ McCollum and Meyers Leonard both not getting a shot off from long-range. The Suns were selling out pretty hard on the 3-point line and they were the better team. Steve Blake also had a goose-egg in points and dished out only one assist but played only 10 minutes.
- Dorell Wright got the start for the Blazers and Wright made some big plays for the Blazers throughout the night. He scored 15 points, hit three 3-pointers and brought an unexpected punch by getting to the free-throw line. He also had five assists and two steals. So at least for Wednesday, the Blazers went with a small starting line-up as they try to get along without Aldridge.
- The Suns out-rebounded the Blazers 50-44.
- The Oregonian’s Joe Freeman reports that Aldridge’s MRI scheduled for later in the week is actually a follow up as an initial scan was “inconclusive.”