LaMarcus Aldridge Already Proving His True Value in 2014 NBA Playoffs

Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2014

HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 20:  LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the Portland Trail Blazers backs in on Terrence Jones #6 of the Houston Rockets in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Toyota Center on April 20, 2014 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

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.

HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 20:  LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the Portland Trail Blazers takes a shot against the Houston Rockets in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs on April 20, 2014 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas
Bill Baptist/Getty Images

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:

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:

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:

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.

PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 13: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the Portland Trail Blazers stands on the court during a game against the Golden State Warriors on April 13, 2014 at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and
Cameron Browne/Getty Images

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.

PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 13: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the Portland Trail Blazers handles the ball against David Lee #10 of the Golden State Warriors on April 13, 2014 at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and
Sam Forencich/Getty Images

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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