Trail Blazers vs Heat Thursday, 01/10/13 AT 07:30PM

Batum Sparks Comeback For Dramatic Win Over Heat

01/11/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    The Trail Blazers (20-15) had to hang tough against a championship opponent. They were losing but they never lost their faith. Two Wesley Matthews (18 points) three-pointers in a span of 30 seconds and 10 of Nicolas Batum's 28 points (seven rebounds, five assists) helped Portland comeback from 12 points down in the fourth quarter to beat the defending NBA champion Miami Heat (23-11) 92-90 for their ninth straight home win.

    This win and this season starts with Terry Stotts and a message he has instilled in his players from day one. That message is one word: compete.

    That, not the playoffs or wins or recognition, has been the goal for this Trail Blazers team, it just so happens it's translating into wins, especially in close games.

    "It's an understatement to say it's great to beat Miami. They're a great team and the defending champs," Stotts said after the game. "I've got to hand it to our guys for sticking with it. You keep competing and playing through and find a way to win games and that's kind of what we did tonight and what we've been doing most of the season."

    Batum has heard his coach's message.

    "That's the way we play this year, we never give up," Batum said. "One time we're down 18 with five minutes to go we still win the game because we never gave up. We keep competing, that's the word we have when we come on the court, that's the word we have in practice: compete. That's what Coach wants for us, never give up, never stop, so that's what we try to do. Like I say, even if we play the Miami Heat, you never know what can happen if you keep playing."
     
    Portland has been money in crunch time. But, so were their opponents tonight. The Heat  and Trail Blazers  came into the game first and second respectively in the NBA in winning percentage in games that are within five points with five minutes left. That's the situation Portland eventually found themselves in again but it was no easy task getting there.

    Damian Lillard went four of 11 (eight assists) scoring eight points in the first quarter but only two the rest of the game, the opposite game we've come to expect from The Rookie. JJ Hickson (eight points, 10 rebounds), normally a high percentage shooter, shot three of 11 from the field. Portland didn't have a single quarter where they shot over 50 percent. But Miami was still at arms length.

    Chris Bosh had one of those games he has sometimes for the Heat, where he just went off. Bosh scored 29 and it seemed as if he could not miss. He was 13 of 18 from the field and the midrange jumpers, the lowest percentage shots in basketball, were falling right through the twine. LeBron James (10 rebounds, nine assists) was having a low-key scoring night, as he only scored 15 on the night, snapping his streak of 33 consecutive games scoring 20 points or more. James came in averaging 30.4 points per game against Portland. Matthews drew the assignment on James for most of the game while Batum was on Dwyane Wade (18 points) and both of them held their respective assignments under 20 points and a combined 12 of 34 shooting, switching occasionally.

    Portland  struggled to really get anything going offensively. Lillard is usually the engine that pushes the offense when they need it, but he wasn't that man tonight. Portland had to find another way.  Portland turned it on, going to the basket, getting to the line (19 fourth quarter free-throw attempts) and hitting the glass hard (12-6 rebounding edge in fourth quarter). LaMarcus Aldridge did both of those things, grabbing five of his 15 rebounds in the fourth quarter and getting all eight of his free-throw attempts in the final period. Aldridge was steady, but Batum was the rush of energy Portland needed and Matthews was the closer.

    With 6:12 left and Portland down by eight, Batum got a steal and went coast-to-coast for a bucket and was fouled by Wade. Batum would hit the free-throw, only to hit a three-pointer coming out of the timeout on the next possession.

    Now we're at that time, the time when both the Heat and Trail Blazers seem to shine, crunch time.

    Matthews hit a jumper. Portland came up empty on the next possession after Lillard uncharacteristically missed two free-throws that could have made it a one point game but Batum was there to save Portland again. Portland had to answer Miami. Ray Allen got loose for a three and Bosh kept hitting, but Matthews and Batum were able to disrupt James and Wade enough down the stretch as the duo combined for only five points in the final period. Matthews and Batum combined for 18.

    The final few minutes for Matthews were what this Trail Blazers team is about. He took a rebound coast-to-coast and took a tough, some would say "wild" shot that bounced to Hickson, and his putback didn't go. Ray Allen went to the line, but one of the greatest shooters of all time missed a free-throw. Portland was given new life. More chances to keep competing. Batum found Matthews for a wide-open corner three to tie it on the next possession and LeBron followed it up with a beautiful pass to Bosh for a Dunk. Matthews came right back, showing no fear, hitting a step-back three to give Portland a one-point lead and send the Rose Garden crowd, which felt like it was shaking, into a frenzy. Miami had one last shot, but none of the big-three or Allen got a look and Mario Chalmers had a great look that glanced off the back rim.

    "That was a good play," Batum said of Miami's final shot.  "I said to Will (Barton, Batum's locker room neighbor) after the game, if he makes it, I cry,"

    No tears in Rip City tonight, just smiles and hats off to a team that shows us every day what it means to never give up.

    Brian Wheeler had some incredible calls tonight, one of the most exciting being Wesley Matthews' step-back three for the final lead of the night. Give it a listen here.

    Portland now travels to Oakland, the hometown of Damian Lillard to face the Golden State Warriors. That game will tip off at 7:30 and will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

    Want to see the excitement live? Check out the Winter Survival Kit and get hoops, dinner and a movie all starting at just $58!

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