Portland gave $44 million to a role player this offseason, then the keys to its future to a rookie point guard. Friday’s OT win against Houston has Portland looking smart for those moves. Nicolas Batum ripped off 35 points with five blocks (including a critical snuff on James Harden (29) with less than 30 seconds to play in regulation) including 11 straight points at one juncture. LaMarcus Aldridge had 29 but the story continues to be rookie Damian Lillard‘s maturation to lead the Blazers from 15 points down. The last half of the fourth quarter and overtime, when he dropped 16 points alone, looked like one of his famed pre-draft workouts where he couldn’t miss if you gave him shock therapy. He had 27 points thank to shots Toney Douglas later called “hope to Jesus” attempts. Consider that prayer answered. … Mike D’Antoni watched his Lakers roll up 114 points in a 12-point win over Phoenix from the team’s training room, with Kobe Bryant scoring 31 while looking like a new man. For one, Bryant can do basically anything he wants until D’Antoni gets his system installed and Bean Bryant is the team’s default operating system. Two, he still hates playing Phoenix with the fire of a thousand, uh, suns. Steve Nash will miss another week with his injured leg, the team announced, a definite setback for this team as it tries to finally hit the ground running. … Remember the wall-to-wall fan scene at the Chinese airport when T-Mac arrived a few weeks back that looked like it was 2003 all over again? His first dunk in the Chinese league looks like something out of his mid-2000s glory days, too. … Earlier Friday we wrote how Orlando’s J.J. Redick (23 points) was a player to watch in last night’s games and he delivered with a go-ahead triple with less than a minute left as the Magic cleared the woeful Pistons, 110-106. Greg Monroe can take solace that his left-handed facial dunk on rook Andrew Nicholson was one of the nastiest of the night. … In other games, the Kings had a players-only meeting after Atlanta smoked them, 112-96. Kyle Korver‘s five triples and 22 points broke the Kings’ back every time. … Golden State beat a nine-man Minnesota rotation, 106-98, with David Lee getting 18 and 13. … In one of the night’s most unusual moments, New Orleans coach Monty Williams and Kevin Durant (27 points) started jawing at each other to close the first half. Starters had to separate the two in Oklahoma City’s 110-95 win. Lost in all that sound and fury, signifying nothing, was the kind of ball pressure Russell Westbrook (10 points) unloaded on the Hornets. He rarely let Greivis Vasquez feel comfortable, or even get the ball into a set. … We’re out like Bynum.
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