Blazer Banter

Road Takes: Aldridge Dominates, Lillard Closes As Portland Steals Game 1 In Houston

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The NBA playoffs left the best for last in their opening games.

In the end, behind 46 points and 18 rebounds from LaMarcus Aldridge and a veteran like 31 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists from playoff newcomer Damian Lillard, Portland stole game one 122-120.

It feels like it was years ago when the game began with the Blazers going right at James Harden with Wesley Matthews in the post. Matthews was almost like a battering ram on The Beard, pounding the ball to the paint for good looks. But he didn’t have too good of a night from the field as the Blazers realized they went to it a little bit too much.

Matthews was 6-for-19 from the field but the fact that he made Harden work can’t be undervalued.

The Blazers dominated early behind Matthews and Aldridge exploiting match-ups. While Matthews’ match-up dried up, Aldridge’s just kept on giving.

Aldridge took Terrence Jones, Omer Asik and Dwight Howard or whomever all night long. This was a game when the maturity of Aldridge showed through as the midrange jumper left him going to the rim and to the line.

Aldridge's game 1 shot chart. Note the rim attempts.

Aldridge’s game 1 shot chart. Note the rim attempts.

If Jones or Parsons was on him, he punished them and he was too mobile at times for the bigger two.  Thanks to the great Ben Golliver of Blazersedge, we have this list that Aldridge just joined after the win:

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Aldridge kept going and going. At some point the words to describe the performance lost meaning because Aldridge had a career-high in a playoff game. It was a truly dominating performance that was will live on in Blazers-lore even though it was cut short by a sixth-foul call on overtime on an illegal screen.

Luckily for the Blazers, somewhere between Aldridge’s all-out dominance, their poised second-year All-Star started to assert himself.

Lillard found his groove in the middle of the fourth quarter. He scored 11 of his 31 in the fourth quarter after not getting a bucket in the third quarter. The Patrick Beverley effect seems to have worn off.

It was a classic in the true sense of the word and it wasn’t only the players on the court that shined.

Blazers coach Terry Stotts helped swing the game with a great deal of moves, the biggest of which involved going to the Hack-A-Dwight to swing momentum. Howard made the first two of the Hack-A-Dwight experienced but he bricked the next four, forcing McHale to take Howard out of the game.

When Howard came out, Aldridge made a sandwhich out of Houston’s lunchmeat frontline as Omer Asik proved ineffective and McHale woefully decided to go small.

Stotts knew when to take Robin Lopez out of the game but didn’t let him collect dust as Lopez had some big plays in the overtime. Aldridge and Lopez both fouled out in the overtime, forcing Joel Freeland to get his first NBA playoff minutes in the extra period.

Stotts ran circles around McHale in Game 1 and now it’s on Houston to make the adjustments. Game 1 doesn’t mean this is wrapped up as the playoffs are always about the adjustments. It’s going to be interesting to see how McHale counters after Stotts had the advantage in game 1, as I suspected when I looked at the match-ups.

The Rockets missed a great deal of shots and the Howard-Harden duo went a combined 17-of-49 but Portland’s effort on defense–specifically Batum, Matthews and Lopez–should be commended.

The starters for both sides logged very heavy minutes, so fatigue will be in play for both teams.

Luckily for both teams they have two days off.

Portland now holds a 1-0 lead after one of the greatest playoff performances in ages by Aldridge, a veteran-like debut from Lillard, chess moves from Stotts and a little luck too.

To win in the NBA playoffs, you need a little of everything.

Check back here later as we’ll have more coverage from the Game 1 Portland win.

Game 2 is on Wednesday at 6:30 in Houston.

Notes/Links:

Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen is the Trail Blazers beat reporter for The Columbian. He's a graduate of the Allen School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon in addition earning a degree in Spanish. He started writing about NBA Basketball for SwishScout.com before being the Sports Reporter Intern for TrailBlazers.com. He also fist-bumped with Kanye West once. Follow @BlazerBanter on twitter for more Blazers and NBA news.

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