On Thursday night, it was announced that fans had neglected to vote Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, in the midst of a career-best season, as a West starter in the 2014 All-Star Game in New Orleans. Later in the night, Aldridge likely made several voters reconsider their choices.
Scoring a career-high 44 points on 15-of-29 shooting, Aldridge carried the Blazers to a 110-105 win over the visiting Denver Nuggets at Moda Center. He also performed his best with the game on his line. Midway through the fourth quarter, Portland underwent a scoring drought of nearly three minutes and trailed 97-95. At the 6:33 mark, Aldridge went to the line for two free throws and tied the game, starting a game-closing stretch in which he scored the team's last 15 points (11-of-14 FT, 2-of-4 FG) against just eight for the Nuggets as a whole.
Aldridge added 13 rebounds, five assists, and two blocks, performing at his best on a night when the Blazers could not muster the stellar three-point shooting (4-of-18 from long-range) that's given them such a fearsome offensive attack this season. The performance proved why Aldridge has received notice as a fringe MVP candidate and the strides he's taken as a primary scoring option. Although he didn't receive a desired All-Star spot on Thursday, it's a near certainty that he'll be named to the team when reserves are announced next week.
Thursday's win ended a two-game skid for the Blazers over road games against the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder. While the team has seen its form dip slightly following a surprising 22-4 start, Portland remains in the top three of the conference and sits just a game back of OKC for the West's best record. With Aldridge leading the way, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them at that level of the standings in April, as well.
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