How Houston Defended Aldridge In Game 1 And What They May Do Differently In Game 2
“We’ll have to come up with some new ways to get the ball out of his hands some,” Houston coach Kevin McHale concluded following LaMarcus Aldridge’s 46 point, 18 rebound performance in Game 1 of a seven-game series between the Rockets and Blazers.
LaMarcus Aldridge had plenty of “fixins” in the words of Kenny Powers to go with the lunchmeat defense played by the Rockets.
They left Aldridge single-covered for much of the night and he mixed in shots at the rim and good kick outs in with a few three-pointers. Another key to Aldridge’s dominance was his play on the boards, being the best rebounder on the floor in Game 1. He got a lot of second chances to go in but his postgame in single coverage, and the quality shots he got kept Portland in it when Houston was outplaying them.
McHale either didn’t know or reveal what he’s going to do following the game. The photo below was the first and only possession where the Rockets sent an early double team.
The next photo is the result of that double:
Matthews misses the shot but you better believe Terry Stotts is okay with Matthews getting looks from a spot where he’s shooting 38.5 percent from this season. Is this a trade-off that McHale and the Rockets staff is willing to take?
After success early in the season from three unlocked by double-teams on Aldridge, Portland’s opponents stopped sending double-teams.
But with so little time, McHale has a decision to make on how much he wants to double Aldridge which open up three-point looks for the Blazers who were 10th in three-point percentage and 4th in three-pointers made in the regular season.
LaMarcus Aldridge believes that the Rockets will front him with Terrence Jones and place Dwight Howard behind him. Via Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune:
The Rockets primarily used second-year pro Terrence Jones to defend Aldridge in single coverage. Late in the game, center Dwight Howard moved over to defend him. Rarely did the Rockets choose to double-team Aldridge. That could change Wednesday night.
“Every game is different,” Aldridge said. “They’ll come back with a different scheme. They’re going to change up some things. We have to be ready for anything they bring. They’ll probably have Jones front me and Dwight behind me.”
Per a quick review of Aldridge’s post-ups on Synergy, the Rockets did employ a few different strategies on Aldridge in the regular season. Here’s the one that Aldridge mentioned in particular, from his 31-point, 25-rebound game in a Portland win back in December:
And here’s Howard doubling behind.
The possession makes Aldridge put the ball on the floor and resulted in a turnover when he tried to pass to Robin Lopez here:
Here’s a similar version but with Francisco Garcia on Aldridge after a pick and roll with Batum forces he and Parsons to switch:
And as Howard cheats over, Robin Lopez flashes to the foul line and Batum hits him.
Lopez feeds Aldridge on the play, who ends up being doubled and he misses a right hand hook. If Lopez can either make quick passes that leads to buckets, or make the foul-line jumper, Houston could be in big trouble.
There’s another variation of that look that Aldridge might see could be similar to this one, just to change it up.
In the same game where Jones and Howard bracketed Aldridge, they had Parsons front him before he gets the ball.
Howard is in the paint, cheating over to help. The air under the pass from Batum allows the Rockets to execute a switch (below).
They tried this a few times and Aldridge took Dwight outside both times, hitting jumpers.
They’ve shown Aldridge a bunch of looks and he already knows what to expect and what was most successful for Houston. But now it’s going to be on the other Blazers perimeter players to make shots off of double teams or Robin Lopez to make the Rockets pay for essentially leaving him.
It will be interesting to see how much the Rockets employ certain coverages on Aldridge and which ones they send his way after his All-Time great playoff performance.
Video and stats via Synergy, NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com