Last Thursday, Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge was named to his second consecutive All-Star Game as a Western Conference reserve. He has played well and is a deserving choice, but he's also one of the more controversial ones. Our Kelly Dwyer, for instance, opted against including Aldridge in his own picks because of a slow start. So, although Aldridge didn't really have anything to prove following his selection, he also faced more questions than a few of his future All-Star teammates.
On Tuesday night in Portland, Aldridge put any remaining doubts to rest. With the Blazers down 104-101 to the Dallas Mavericks, Aldridge hit a stepback 3-pointer — his first triple of the season, on his 10th attempt — with 4.5 seconds remaining to tie the score. It was an improbable, impressive shot, in part because Aldridge had to find his footing from an unfamiliar spot on the floor.
That shot turned out to be just the opening act. After a controversial charging call at the other end on Mavericks guard O.J. Mayo, the Blazers called a timeout and had time for one last shot at the regulation win with 1.5 seconds on the clock. They managed to isolate Aldridge on Brandan Wright in the post. Wesley Matthews threw a great inbounds entry pass, Aldridge calmly turned toward the baseline and put up a fallaway jumper, and the Blazers won 106-104 in a thriller.
After the jump, check out some quotes from the scene and more info on the exciting finish.
Ben Golliver of The Point Forward was at the Rose Garden for the game, and he collected quotes from some of the key players involved:
“This is what you live for,” Aldridge said of his game-winner. “That one felt great. That one felt real easy.”
Aldridge broke into a wide grin as the shot went through and he was immediately mobbed by his teammates.
“He was smiling like a rookie,” Blazers forward Nicolas Batum said. “He was happy, it was a big shot by L.A. … He is a go-to guy, he’s one of the best.” [...]
“We had our longest guy on him,” [Dallas Mavericks coach Rick] Carlisle said of Wright defending Aldridge. “But he made a better play.”
Selected to his second consecutive All-Star Game last week, Aldridge finished with a team-high 29 points and 13 rebounds.
“He didn’t have to make that shot to prove he’s an All-Star,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “He proves it every night.”
Oddly enough, this game was a wild one even before Aldridge scored five points in five seconds. The Blazers won due to a 10-3 advantage in the last 52 seconds and overcame a 17-point halftime deficit for the comeback. Portland has made a habit of crazy comebacks and last-minute wins this season — this one could top the list.
Meanwhile, Aldridge finished up an amazing January with his league-best 11th double-double of the month in only 15 games. Portland has now won three of its last four after a six-game losing streak and sit just one game back of the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets for one of the West's final two postseason spots. In what figures to be a playoff race to the wire, this game could end up as more than just a crazy finish when we look back in April.