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:

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.


  • Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports via twitter that Houston guard Patrick Beverley will get an MRI tomorrow morning but that there is “great fear” within the Rockets organization on the “extent of the re-aggravation of knee injury.
  • Via Casey Holdahl of LaMarcus Aldridge told former Blazer and current Rockets broadcaster Clyde Drexler he was coming for all of his records: ““When I walked by him I said ‘I’m coming for you’ and I meant in every stat possible,” said Aldridge. “He said I still have some work to do, but he said I could do it. I was joking with him about trying to break all of his records.” 
  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian writes:His 46 points were a playoff franchise high, surpassing the 45 Bonzi Wells recorded in 2003. He became the first player in franchise history to record at least 30 points and 15 rebounds in a playoff game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. And he became the first player in the NBA to register at least 46 points, 18 rebounds and two blocks in the postseason since Hakeem Olajuwon in 1987.That’s right, playing in Houston, Aldridge etched his place alongside The Dream.“I don’t know why anyone would question whether he was ready for this,” Stotts said. “The guy’s an All-Star, a multiple All-Star, probably All-pro. And he’s been ready for this moment. We rode him, he was very efficient on his post-ups. When they played with a small lineup, he took advantage of the matchups that he had.”
  • From The Oregonian’s John Canzano:“Every guy fought, every guy took it personal. That was my goal in pregame, I wanted every guy to take their matchup personal,” Aldridge said.Aldridge had 46 points. Anyone else think a younger Aldridge, say circa 2009, would have carried the Blazers the way he did on Sunday?When Aldridge fouled out he turned to Lillard, playing in his first playoff game and said, “take it over.” Lillard did.
  • Ben Golliver, writing for Aldridge didn’t answer definitively when asked if he had just completed the best game of his career. He did admit that he was taking home the game ball and that he would add it to his collection, but he hemmed and hawed otherwise. In all honesty, Aldridge could have sat at the podium in complete silence; rarely does a performance so thoroughly speak for itself.The 28-year-old three-time All-Star is no stranger to big nights, but he’s never accomplished anything in the vicinity of his 46-point, 18-rebound outing against the Rockets. He surpassed his career-high (44 points), his postseason career-high (31) points, the Blazers’ postseason franchise scoring record (45 points), and he put together a scoring/rebounding combination that has come along roughly five years since the mid-1980s. He entered Sunday with just 18 playoff appearances and four playoff double-doubles; he left Sunday with that game ball and home court advantage.

    “It’s an honor. It’s surreal. I’m truly blessed,” Aldridge said afterwards. “I’ve been a Trail Blazer all my life. I want to try to break every record if I can.”

Erik Gundersen

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's covered the NBA for four seasons. You can also occasionally find his work on's NBA section for their TrueCities series. He also fist-bumped with Kanye West once. Follow @BlazerBanter on twitter for more Blazers and NBA news.

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