Minneapolis, Minn - Nicolas Batum only attempted 11 shots in a scary 102-97 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. That's not enough attempts for the small forward who was rewarded with a hefty 4-year, 46 million contract this past summer. Before you ask, Why did he only get up 11 shots?, let me inform you that he converted nine of those attempts and was 5-for-6 from long range on his way to 26 points, five rebounds, and three assist.You're probably thinking differently about those 11 shots now.
Going into tonight's game, the Trail Blazers (18-15) were on a mission to leave this four-game road trip 3-1. That was the team's primary goal. For Batum, he had a secondary goal...making sure the Minnesota Timberwolves organization and their fan-base knew what type of player they almost had. The Timberwolves (15-15) issued Batum that offer sheet last summer when he was a restricted free agent. They even went to extreme lengths and included a 15 percent trade kicker in hopes the Trail Blazers would think twice about matching the offer. We all know where Batum ended up and this season he has blossomed into an all-around player who can beat you with his passing, scoring, and defense. However, he still wanted to prove it to Minnesota. "They (Minnesota) gave me my contract first, Batum told CSNNW.com. So those people didn't even know me and I felt I should prove to them and the fans that I was worth it. It was good hearing, 'Why are yo unot here' and 'Why you not with us' and 'We need you.' That means I got some respect tonight."
Batum scored the Trail Blazers' first seven points of the game. Every shot he took tonight looked like it was going in. His contagious shooting spree started to rub off on his teammates. The Trail Blazers were 16-of-24 for the game from long distance and according to Trail Blazers Public Relations, the Trail Blazers tied a franchise record with 16 made 3-pointers and are the first NBA team to make at least 16 3-pointers on 24 or fewer 3-point attempts since Dec. 3, 2010. "Nic had it going," said Damian Lillard who finished with 20 points and six assist. "I think we all fed off of him. I think he had our first seven points, so he was definitely into the game from the jump and it was big for us."
In observing the Timberwolves roster, they sure could use Batum righ tnow. Brandon Roy (knee) is out, Ricky Rubio (back) is out, and All-Star Kevin Love (broken hand) is out for the foreseeable future. Timberwolves Head Coach Rick Adelman said he has never experienced an injury bug like this in his coaching career. The shorthanded Timberwolves found themselves down 22 with 4:06 left in the third quarter before amazingly trimming the lead to two with 1:19 remaining in the contest. The Trail Blazers got the ball to their guy LaMarcus Aldridge and he hit a tough turnaround jumper to put his team up four with 37 seconds, providing just enough cushion to ultimately come away with the win.
"I was going to call for the ball at that point, but we were already on the same page," Aldridge said after posting numbers of 14 points and nine rebounds. "I just wanted to back them down and get a good shot and thankfully I was finally able to hit a shot." This win makes it 10 games out of the last 13 where the Trail Blazers have defeated the Timberwolves. There were heroes all around tonight. Wesley Matthews continued his stellar play going for 26 points of his own on 8-of-15 from the floor and JJ Hickson pulled down 11 rebounds. Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts continues to coach-up this team like no other.
But the start by Batum and his extra motivation was what got them going. A little bit I was a motivated, we all know what happened this summer so I know people were waiting for it. Especially for this game. But,I'm just glad we got a win and got a 3-1 road trip. So I'm good withthat. The Trail Blazers are currently standing in the 7th spot in the Western Conference standings and are second in the Northwest Division behind the Oklahoma City Thunder.