Coach Nate McMillan knew LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) had the potential to be a dominant NBA player when the Portland Trail Blazers traded for him in a draft day deal in 2006. McMillan is pleased to see him living up to those expectations.
Aldridge and the Blazers try to win a season-high fifth straight Saturday night when they go for their fifth consecutive victory over the Indiana Pacers.
With Roy sidelined the last 18 games, Aldridge has averaged 25.9 points and 10.1 rebounds, increasing his career-high averages this season to 21.3 and 8.8 per game.
“I’ve been waiting for this,” McMillan told the Blazers’ official website after Aldridge had 28 points in Thursday’s 108-93 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I really have. I said this to LaMarcus when he was drafted … Most players coming into the league and they either play one or the other - you’re a good defender or a scorer. This is special because he can do both.”
Those skills could earn Aldridge his first All-Star game appearance. More importantly, his presence on the defensive end will be critical as the Blazers (24-20) will be without starting center Marcus Camby(notes) for the next few weeks after he had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Thursday.
Despite another season marred by injuries, Portland is eighth in the Western Conference and enters Saturday looking to win five in a row for the first time since March 9-19.
The Blazers, averaging 101.2 points while going 11-2 at the Rose Garden since the beginning of December, continue their five-game homestand against a Pacers team that has dropped 11 of 12 on the road.
The Pacers led by as many as 11 points but were done in by 20 turnovers.
“We can’t give up 27 points on turnovers if we want to win,” coach Jim O’Brien said. “… We did not execute that part of the game plan and that’s why we lost. Turnovers killed us and that is the bottom line.”
Indiana committed 18 turnovers in a 102-79 loss at Portland on March 3 in the teams’ last meeting as the Blazers completed a second straight season sweep of the Pacers.
Danny Granger(notes) was the only Indiana player to score in double figures in that matchup with 30 points, and he scored 32 for a second consecutive game Wednesday but also had a game-high seven turnovers.
Although the loss of Camby leaves a big hole in the middle of the Blazers’ defense, Indiana’s struggles on the defensive end could continue if center Roy Hibbert(notes) misses a second straight game with an upper respiratory infection.
The Pacers are among the best in the league in field-goal percentage defense (43.9), but their last two opponents have shot a combined 52.7 percent while averaging 112.0 points.
Indiana, which last dropped four in a row March 2-6, will try to avoid a fifth consecutive loss to Portland after winning the previous nine matchups.