It’s a testament to the nature of sports and athletes in general that LaMarcus Aldridge will probably only be thinking about his sixth and final foul after the Portland Trail Blazers' 122-120 victory in Game 1 of their playoff series against the Houston Rockets.
Aldridge turned in a historically great performance in a hostile environment on the road, but it probably won’t erase the bad taste left in his mouth from that foul out, especially since it came on a mental lapse while setting an illegal screen.
Alas, the fact that Damian Lillard and the rest of Aldridge’s teammates carried the squad to victory probably helps the big man feel a lot better.
Aldridge finished with an astounding 46 points, 18 rebounds and two blocks on the night, and he and Lillard carried Portland back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter. SportsCenter noted just how critical Aldridge and Lillard were down the stretch:
The Portland Trail Blazers' official Twitter account and PR team noted how historically great his performance was:
LaMarcus Aldridge's 46 points are a new career high for any game (44, 1/23/14 vs. Denver).— Trail Blazers PR (@TrailBlazersPR) April 21, 2014
To make matters even better, Aldridge joined some pretty elite company with his Game 1 stat line, as Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com pointed out:
Only three players since 1986 have put up 46 & 18 in a playoff game: Hakeem Olajuwon, Dwight Howard ... and now LaMarcus Aldridge.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) April 21, 2014
Aldridge faced a number of different defenders throughout regulation and overtime, but the fact that some of his production came against Dwight Howard for stretches makes the performance all the more impressive. Howard is considered by many to be one of the best big men in the game, especially on the defensive side, but Aldridge had his way down low and got the tip-in that sent the game to overtime with less than three seconds remaining in regulation.
Rockets coach Kevin McHale made it clear before the game that his team would focus on stopping No. 12 in comments that come via Joe Freeman of The Oregonian, but it didn’t seem to be enough:
He gets loose, he’s a tough shot-maker, he can shoot over the top. We’re going to give him some different looks, we’re going to do some different things to try to get him off his game. But he’s just one of those guys, (when) he’s just making those tough turnaround fadeaways, it’s hard.
Mike Hill of Fox Sports brought up an interesting point while Aldridge was dominating his first playoff game of the season:
Glad LaMarcus Aldridge is getting this stage to show just how dominant he's been all season.— Mike Hill (@ItsMikeHill) April 21, 2014
He and Lillard play in Portland, so he doesn’t get the type of national attention that stars in media markets like New York, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles do. Throw in the fact that a lot of NBA fans are in bed when the Trail Blazers are playing, and Aldridge doesn’t get a lot of opportunities to show his greatness.
He is already proving just how valuable he is as a franchise cornerstone in the postseason with more eyeballs on him, and we are only one game in.
It would be unfair to expect a replication of a historically great performance in Game 2, but expect another impressive outing from Aldridge.
The first-game jitters will be out of the way, and he should have plenty of confidence after Sunday’s game. What’s more, Portland as a team has nothing to lose because it already stole the home-court advantage away from the Rockets in Game 1.
Look for a loose and confident Aldridge to overpower the Houston defense again the second time around.
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