LaMarcus Aldridge has taken the league by storm during the 2014 NBA playoffs, scoring 40-plus points in back-to-back games, on the road no less, to put his Portland Trail Blazers up 2-0 on the Houston Rockets.
The eight-year veteran is quickly becoming one of the most feared offensive weapons in the league and, if he can keep up his scoring outburst, is capable of carrying his squad all the way through the NBA Finals.
After averaging a respectable and career-high 23.2 points per game during the 2013-14 regular season, Aldridge has risen to the occasion and then some to start Portland’s playoff run.
The talented big man connected on a scorching 59.3 percent of his shots, of which he has taken 59 over the course of two contests. He’s also getting to the line at an alarming rate, having taken 21 foul shots and hit on 17 of them.
The NBA on ESPN noted that Aldridge is one of only three active players to score 40-plus in consecutive postseason games:
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
Ballislife.com posted a photo of the phenom’s shot chart with a humorous comment:
Aldridge explained how he was able to score so efficiently, and hit on 13 of his 19 mid-range shots, in Game 2 to Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com: "I just got in that rhythm and started making shots, but they definitely changed it up on me."
After all that, Aldridge has shown he still has plenty of energy on the defensive end. He’s racked up five blocks and 26 rebounds thus far in the series, while helping defend a variety of players and protecting the rim from Houston’s frontcourt—a strong unit that includes superstar center Dwight Howard.
The Texas product is even showing off skills he rarely displayed during his career, as his two three-pointers in Game 1 nearly equaled his season total of three made treys.
To put this frenzy of buckets in perspective, the Blazers official Twitter feed noted that Aldridge has become the first player since the legendary Michael Jordan back in 1997 to score 80-plus points and garner 15-plus rebounds in his team’s first pair of postseason contests:
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
How far will the Blazers go in the playoffs?
Jordan, of course, led the Bulls to their fifth Finals victory that year in an epic series against the Utah Jazz. If Aldridge can keep putting points on the board in this fashion, he might just be able to carry the Blazers to their first championship since Bill Walton brought one to the Rose City in 1977.
With an incredible sidekick in Damian Lillard—the second-year guard who is also capable of lighting it up and making defenses pay from anywhere on the court—and a supporting cast that can defend decently and make long-range shots at a good clip (the Blazers tied for seventh in the league in terms of three-pointers made and ranked No. 16 in defensive efficiency, as per ESPN), the sky is the limit for Portland.
This team was one of the hottest in the league at the start of the season, but cooled off as their bench tapered its production. With the rotations tightened in the playoffs, the Blazers are a force to be reckoned with and Aldridge has the skills to bring them to the Finals.