Before the playoffs began, it was quietly understood that this Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets series was perhaps the most even match-up, and I’ll be damned if both teams didn’t prove that in Game 1. Despite being perhaps the most poorly-officiated game in recent playoff memory, the game turned into an instant classic. Four players fouled out (LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez, Patrick Beverley and Dwight Howard), all on questionable calls, and as a result it came down to a battle of the scoring guards, with Damian Lillard taking advantage of Patrick Beverley’s absence to propel the Blazers over the Rockets, 122-120.
If both teams were so evenly-matched, then what was the difference-maker for the Blazers? LaMarcus Aldridge. Despite fouling out with 1:04 left in overtime, Aldridge put up a dominant line of 46 points and 18 rebounds, and proved that maybe, just maybe, he has had enough of the first-round exits. Aldridge and Lillard combined to score 77 points and grab 27 rebounds, and both players’ clutch baskets helped them steal home-court advantage on a night where James Harden struggled to score late in the game. While Harden did score 27 points, it took him 28 shots to do so, and his 14 three-point attempts (of which he hit only three) illustrate his questionable shot selection. Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin, Terrence Jones and Howard all stepped up at different times on offense for the Rockets, but Harden’s inability to hit the shots that he needed ultimately spelled defeat for Houston.
The biggest loss may not have been on the scoreboard, however, as it was released that Beverley had re-injured his right knee and would receive an MRI on Monday. If he is unable to go, Jeremy Lin would most likely move back into the starting lineup, leaving the Rockets with limited point guard depth off the bench, and even more of a problem when it comes to handling Lillard due to Beverley’s endline-to-endline ball pressure being absent.
One thing is for certain though – if the rest of the series is as tight as Game 1 was, NBA fans are in for a treat.