We'll take a couple more of these, please.
Three days after an overtime thriller in the series opener, the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers put together another scintillating battle in Game 2 on Wednesday, with Terry Stotts' team once again pulling out the road victory, 112-105.
The Blazers take another game in Houston! LaMarcus Aldridge goes for 43 in the 112-105 Portland win! pic.twitter.com/nN0XZwXe3v— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) April 24, 2014
It was the LaMarcus Aldridge Show Part Duex at the Toyota Center, as the Blazers big man followed up a record-setting Game 1 with 43 points on 28 shots to go with eight rebounds and three blocks to extend the Blazers' series lead to 2-0.
The transcendent performance put him into truly elite territory, as the team's PR Twitter feed and NBA on ESPN each noted:
LaMarcus Aldridge is first player with 80+ points and 15+ rebounds in team's first 2 playoff games since Michael Jordan (April 25-27, 1997).— Trail Blazers PR (@TrailBlazersPR) April 24, 2014
LaMarcus Aldridge joins Kobe Bryant (2001) and LeBron James (2009) as the only active players to score 40+ in consecutive playoff games.— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) April 24, 2014
While Damian Lillard played the role of Robin in Game 1, Portland's bench gave Aldridge the backup he needed on Wednesday. Dorrell Wright added 15 points, two steals and three blocks, while Mo Williams chipped in 13 points and a couple of threes.
Dwight Howard matched Aldridge in the first half and ended up with 32 points and 14 rebounds, but James Harden had just 18 points on an atrocious 6-of-19 shooting, the Rockets defense just couldn't get enough stops down the stretch and a late fourth-quarter comeback fell just short.
Even Harden likely considers it a crippling loss, as ESPN's Tom Haberstroh noted:
Remember, James Harden called this a must-win.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) April 24, 2014
The polarizing center came out of the gates like a man possessed, scoring Houston's first 13 points and 19 total in the first quarter, as the Rockets jumped out to a 31-23 advantage.
As the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen pointed out, the outburst set a new record for a franchise that has a little bit of history when it comes to dominant big men:
Howard sets a franchise record with 19 points in the first quarter of a playoff game. Hakeem had 18 in the first against Utah in 95.— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) April 24, 2014
“We have to play inside out, play their bigs and make it a long night for those guys,” Howard said after Game 1, via CBS Sports' Matt Moore. “I have to demand the ball, get it and go to work.”
And Houston followed that blueprint to a tee.
Portland had no one-on-one answer for Howard in the post, so the Rockets continued to feed him, and the big man continued to attack. By halftime, he was up to 25 points on 11-of-17 shooting to go with eight rebounds.
I think Dwight Howard has done enough in this game to garner a hard double. Tonight, nobody can stop that guy one-on-one.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) April 24, 2014
But Aldridge, who poured in a franchise playoff best 46 in Game 1, wasn't going to be outdone. The big man scored 12 points in the last six minutes of the quarter, running his first-half total up to 23 on an absurdly efficient 12 shots.
NBA.com's Ben Golliver showed the difference in where the production was coming from for each unstoppable big man:
Shot charts for LaMarcus Aldridge (left) and Dwight Howard (right) pic.twitter.com/vmbggCP5Ej— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) April 24, 2014
Lillard, Harden and Chandler Parsons were a combined 4-of-18 in the first half for 11 points, but no one seemed to notice as Howard and Aldridge's back-and-forth, playground-esque battle was a joy to watch.
Not surprisingly after the show each player put on, the teams entered the locker room tied at 53.
Aldridge continued working in "cheat mode" early in the third quarter, amassing 10 points in the first 3:12 of the period to push the Blazers to a 67-58 lead.
As he continued to "eat," the team's official Twitter feed put it simply:
The Rockets responded with an immediate 9-0 run to erase the deficit, but every time they made some noise, Aldridge was there with a response.
A couple of free throws by Patrick Beverley put Houston up one, but Aldridge buried a 16-foot jumper on the next possession to take the lead right back. Beverley then hit another bucket to seemingly give the Rockets momentum going into the fourth, but Aldridge nailed another jumper to extend Portland's lead to 83-77 after three quarters.
Yahoo Sports' Dan Devine summed up the LA Show best:
I mean, the Rockets could try praying, but I'm pretty sure Jesus is wearing No. 12 in black tonight.— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) April 24, 2014
Williams and Wright hit a couple of three-pointers, and the Blazers were able to increase the lead with Aldridge on the bench for the start of the fourth quarter. Haberstroh summed it up:
Blazers stretched 6 point lead to 9 points in the 5:28 that Aldridge was sitting this quarter. Nightmare stretch for Rox.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) April 24, 2014
After falling behind by as many as nine, the Rockets cut the lead to three with 30 seconds remaining, but free-throws from Lillard sealed the win.
Will the series return to Houston?
Heading back to Rip City for Game 3 on Friday, the Blazers couldn't find themselves in better shape.
The Rockets have enough offensive firepower to steal a game on the road, return home and perhaps make things interesting, but with the level at which Aldridge is playing, Houston may have already dug itself into an insurmountable hole.