The Rockets have no answers for LaMarcus Aldridge.
After his incredible 46-point performance in Game 1, Aldridge went off for 43 more as the Blazers took down the Rockets 112-105 in Game 2 on Wednesday night. Every combination of players and defenses the Rockets threw his way failed.
He was unstoppable.
“I’ve seen him have a fantastic season, there’s no question,” Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said. “But these two games here are as good as I’ve seen him play. He’s very determined, he’s focused, he’s leading the team, not only with his play but the way he’s handling himself in the timeouts, in the locker room. It’s really as well as I’ve seen him play.”
Simply put: Aldridge is playing on another level.
He became the first player to score 40-plus points in consecutive playoff games since LeBron James did it in the Eastern Conference Finals as a member of the Cavaliers in 2009.
The most amazing thing about Aldridge’s game on Wednesday night was that he scored his points in a completely different way than he did in Game 1. In the first game of the best-of-seven series, Aldridge dominated the paint. The Rockets were determined to take that part of his game away in Game 2. And they did.
But Aldridge shot jumpers right over them.
“We tried changing it up tonight,” Rockets head coach Kevin McHale said. “That first game, he got in the paint and wore us out and tonight, he was picking and popping and moving and we were having a hard time running people at him because he was kind of on the perimeter the whole time.”
The series now shifts to Portland, where Aldridge and the Blazers will host Game 3 on Friday.
But, at least through two games, Aldridge has been spectacular. There have been seven 40-point games in Trail Blazers’ playoff history and Aldridge has two of them after the first two games of this series in Houston. The Rockets have had a player go for 40 against them just 10 times in their playoff history and Aldridge, of course, now owns two of them.
The Rockets simply had no answers for the 6-11, three-time All-Star. He’s been the best player on the court for two games.
“Just continue to try to play good defense with a hand up,” said forward Terrence Jones, who has been one of several Rockets to struggle with Aldridge this series. “He really had it going in the first two games and making some pretty unbelievable shots so it was good defense, we just have to make sure we continue to box out, get rebounds on the defensive end when they do miss.”
If the Rockets think they’re playing good defense against Aldridge, how frustrating is it to see the big man rise above them and drill 20-foot jumpers?
“It’s basketball. It happens when you guard great players,” Jones said. “You just want to continue to play the best D you can and stick to the gameplan.”
Rockets guard James Harden said the most important thing is to limit Aldridge’s easy looks and offensive rebounds. Basically anything that the Rockets can control, they need to. Harden explained that once Aldridge starts getting offensive boards and doing the little things, those tough shots seem to start falling even more.
“It’s tough, man. It’s tough,” Harden said. “He’s going at a high level, making tough shots, he’s getting to the foul line, he’s offensive rebounding, he’s doing the whole package and it’s tough for us. We have to figure something out soon. Game 3, I think we win or it’s over.”
-- Dave Zangaro, CSNHouston.com