Another day, another monster game for LaMarcus Aldridge.
After putting up 46 in the Portland Trail Blazers’ Game 1 win over the Houston Rockets on Sunday, LaMarcus Balldridge decided that he might as well put up 40+ again last night—so he did. The most surprising part, and perhaps the worst for Houston, was that the majority of his points came on contested fadeaway 18- to 21-footers. Even when the Rockets realized he was going to shoot them and tried to double team him, Aldridge would hoist a jumper before a help man could even get over there. And he would sink it.
Aldridge wasn’t the only big man who had a big night though, as early on it looked like Dwight Howard was going to put the Rockets on his back. Howard scored the first 13 Rockets points, and had 19 by the end of the first quarter and 25 by halftime. But foul trouble limited him to very few minutes in the second half, as there was a span from 5:42 in the third to 3:49 in the fourth when he sat on the bench. Howard finished the game with 32 points on 13-of-22 shooting, and was the only Rockets player besides Omer Asik (3-of-5) to shoot over 50 percent for the game. Which makes sense, because Howard was really the only player out there for the Rockets that looked interested in contributing.
James Harden struggled mightily, and late in the game (as the announcers pointed out) his body language looked like that of a defeated individual. Harden shot just 6-of-19, and had five turnovers with just four assists. He struggled to get going the whole night after a scoreless 0-of-5 shooting first quarter. The poor performance puts Harden at 29.7 percent shooting (14-of-47) after the first two games of the series.
Harden shouldn’t shoulder all the blame, however, as the whole team struggled to take good shoots, as well as hit their open shots, and that is something the Rockets can’t do if they’re going to allow Aldridge to drop 43.
For another night, Aldridge proved that he was the best player on the court while Terry Stotts proved the coach most prepared to making in-game adjustments. Adjustments that the Rockets will need if they want any chance of reversing their current 2-0 series deficit. After Game 1, many people thought that the Rockets would be fine because Aldridge wouldn’t be able to drop 40+ again and hit all the contested shots he did last game. But he did. Whatever the Rockets fans, and players, tell themselves in anticipation of Game 3, it may be a moot point if they can’t come at Aldridge with a new game plan.
If they don’t, the Blazers may burn through them on their way to a sweep.