NBA News

Too Much Aldridge As Portland Trail Blazers Claim 2-0 Series Lead Over Houston Rockets

By Brett David Roberts
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Apr 23, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Portland Trail Blazers forward

LaMarcus Aldridge

(12) shoots during the second quarter as Houston Rockets center

Omer Asik

(3) defends in game two during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Questions abounded as to how Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale would counter LaMarcus Aldridge’s strong game one performance. Aldridge scored 46 in the opening game of the best-of-seven series, and he turned in another remarkable performance Wednesday night as the Trail Blazers defeated the Rockets 112-105 to take a 2-0 series lead.

The Rockets started by countering Aldridge with heavy doses of  Dwight Howard, pumping the ball inside to Howard early and often.

Howard hit his first six field goals, but the Rockets trailed 15-13 at the first timeout. Howard was replaced by Omer Asik during the timeout because he was completely gassed, but he’d come back in and pick up right where he left off.

When Howard returned to the game, he played alongside Asik in the seldom used Twin Towers lineup.  Blazers coach Terry Stotts began sending double teams at Dwight, and Jeremy Lin (5 points, 5 assists) responded with a corner three as the Rockets pulled ahead. Houston closed the first quarter on a 13-5 run with Howard and Asik on the court together, and the Rockets out rebounded Portland 13-5 in the period.

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Aldridge continued to work the mid-range game and getting the better of both Terrence Jones and Omer Asik. It’s hard to pin the blame on either given Aldridge’s impressive display of skill and footwork. By the intermission, Aldridge had 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Howard was starting to show signs of cooling but still had 25 points on 11-of-17 shooting.

Apr 20, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard

James Harden

(13) reacts after a call during the second quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers in game one during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

At the break though, it could be seen the writing was on the wall. The Rockets had received about the best half of basketball Howard had given them, and still found themselves knotted up with the fifth seeded Blazers. Howard had four of the Rockets eight turnovers at the half, and James Harden was again struggling to knock down shots. Harden was just 3-of-9 in the first half.

And it never really did get any easier for the Bearded One. Harden continued to force tough shots and wasn’t getting bailed out by the officials on occasions when he often does.  He finished the game 6-of-19 from the floor for 18 points.  Harden is now 14-of-47 (29.7 percent) from the floor in the 2014 playoffs.

These problems were further compounded by Howard picking up his fourth foul at the 6:20 mark of the third quarter. Over the final six minutes, the Blazers would go on a 16-10 run to enter the fourth with a six point lead. The Rockets at that point were plus-3 with Howard on the court and negative-9 without him.

Damian Lillard didn’t have an overwhelming game from scoring standpoint, but he was there to close things out in the fourth while Houston was desperately trying to claw back in the game. Lillard hit some clutch free throws and came up with a key offensive rebound on a long Aldridge miss. The second year point guard finished two rebounds shy of a triple-double, tallying 18 points, 11 assists and eight boards.

The Blazers’ victory can mostly be attributed, though, to Aldridge. He’s a threat from everywhere inside the arc, and the Rockets can’t afford to put Howard on Aldridge because he’ll foul out. At this point, it may be the only hope left, as the best way to counter an all-world offensive talent is with an all-world defensive talent.

Aldridge hit 18-of-28 from the floor on the night to finish with 43 points and eight rebounds. He’s now averaging 44.5 points per game in the 2014 playoffs as the series shifts back to Portland.

Portland Trail Blazers

STARTERS

MIN

FG

3PFG

FT

OREB

DREB

REB

AST

STL

BLK

TO

PF

+/-

PTS

LaMarcus Aldridge

36

18-28

0-0

7-8

3

5

8

1

0

3

1

2

+3

43

Nicolas Batum

40

3-11

0-3

0-0

1

3

4

6

1

0

1

0

+6

6

Robin Lopez

31

3-5

0-0

0-0

4

6

10

2

0

3

1

5

+18

6

Damian Lillard

42

3-14

2-7

10-12

2

6

8

11

0

0

3

5

+12

18

Wesley Matthews

40

4-11

1-5

0-0

0

4

4

1

1

0

2

3

+4

9

BENCH

MIN

FG

3PFG

FT

OREB

DREB

REB

AST

STL

BLK

TO

PF

+/-

PTS

Thomas Robinson

7

1-2

0-0

0-0

0

2

2

0

1

2

2

4

-16

2

Dorell Wright

18

4-5

3-4

4-4

1

3

4

2

2

3

1

1

+10

15

Joel Freeland

2

0-0

0-0

0-0

0

2

2

0

0

0

1

4

-2

0

Mo Williams

23

4-8

2-4

3-3

0

1

1

0

0

0

2

4

0

13

Meyers Leonard

DNP COACH’S DECISION

Earl Watson

DNP COACH’S DECISION

C.J. McCollum

DNP COACH’S DECISION

Will Barton

DNP COACH’S DECISION

TOTALS

FG

3PFG

FT

OREB

DREB

REB

AST

STL

BLK

TO

PF

PTS

Fast break points:   6
Points in the paint:   30
Total Team Turnovers (Points off turnovers):   14 (12)

Houston Rockets

STARTERS

MIN

FG

3PFG

FT

OREB

DREB

REB

AST

STL

BLK

TO

PF

+/-

PTS

Terrence Jones

26

5-11

0-1

3-6

4

4

8

1

2

0

0

1

-6

13

Chandler Parsons

40

5-15

0-3

5-5

1

6

7

2

1

0

0

2

-5

15

Dwight Howard

35

13-22

0-0

6-7

6

8

14

1

0

4

6

5

0

32

Patrick Beverley

41

5-11

1-4

3-4

1

1

2

2

1

0

0

5

-6

14

James Harden

44

6-19

2-5

4-4

0

3

3

4

1

0

5

6

+1

18

BENCH

MIN

FG

3PFG

FT

OREB

DREB

REB

AST

STL

BLK

TO

PF

+/-

PTS

Omer Asik

24

3-5

0-0

0-0

2

3

5

1

1

0

1

3

-8

6

Jeremy Lin

25

1-5

0-3

3-4

0

3

3

5

1

0

2

4

-3

5

Francisco Garcia

4

1-2

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

-8

2

Josh Powell

DNP COACH’S DECISION

Donatas Motiejunas

DNP COACH’S DECISION

Jordan Hamilton

DNP COACH’S DECISION

Omri Casspi

DNP COACH’S DECISION

Troy Daniels

DNP COACH’S DECISION

TOTALS

FG

3PFG

FT

OREB

DREB

REB

AST

STL

BLK

TO

PF

PTS

Fast break points:   20
Points in the paint:   68
Total Team Turnovers (Points off turnovers):   15 (19)

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