LaMarcus Aldridge

Game Six Tonight – Portland Trail Blazers And LaMarcus Aldridge’s Chance For Revenge

Fear not, Portland. Despite LaMarcus Aldridge’s poor shooting night in a game five loss to Houston, the “L-Train” still has the Blazers on the tracks, and headed in the right direction with game six tonight at the Moda Center. And the Blazers are more than capable of emerging from this series victorious, simply because of their captain’s stellar play.

In five games against Houston, Aldridge is averaging 30 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game, while shooting nearly 50% from the field and making 76% of his free throws. Those are incredible numbers, and compared with those of 1977 Bill Walton, 1994-95 Hakeem Olajuwon, and 2011 Dirk Nowitzki, you’ll see that not only is LA having a tremendous series, but he is on pace to put his name ahead of some rather spectacular postseason performances.

Dirk put on one of the better playoff performances in recent memory (and perhaps ever) in leading Dallas to their first championship in franchise history. He averaged 28 points and 8 rebounds per game, while shooting nearly 50% from the field and shooting over 90% from the free throw line. Dirk accomplished this while helping the Mavericks win playoff series over Portland, LA Lakers, OKC, and Miami while being matched up against Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Serge Ibaka, and Chris Bosh, four of the best power forwards in the game today.

In leading Houston to titles in 1993-94, Olajuwon put up monster postseason averages of 31 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game while shooting at least 50% from the field and making 70% of his free throws, while leading the league in rocking goggles. Olajuwon lead the Rockets to victory in eight playoff series against Portland (1), Phoenix (2), Utah (2), San Antonio (1), New York (1), and Orlando (1), and busted the playoff dreams of some of the best players the NBA has ever seen in Clyde Drexler, Kevin Johnson, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, and Shaquille O’Neil.

Bill Walton led the Blazers on an unexpected title run in 1977, averaging 18 points, 15 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game while shooting 50% from the field and making nearly 70% of his free throws. Those numbers would be incredible regardless, but add in that he was playing against hall of fame centers Dan Issel, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Artis Gilmore, and only losing 3 games total to the three, including sweeping Jabbar and the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, then outplaying Caldwell Jones and leading the Blazers back from a 2-0 deficit in the NBA Finals to win 4-2, and it’s all the more spectacular.

And yet Aldridge has the chance to best all of that. Aldridge is playing against arguably the best postseason title runs of two Hall of Fame centers and one superstar forward still playing today who will be in the Hall of Fame shortly after he hangs them up. And at the rate he is going, whether the Blazers bring home a title or not, Aldridge’s run will be unforgettable for anyone lucky enough to be witnessing it.

After Aldridge exploded for 89 points and 26 rebounds in the first two games, and primarily being guarded by 6’9” Terrance Jones, Houston made adjustments. 7’ backup center Omer Asik was tasked with primary defense of Aldridge, with help coming from 6’11” center Dwight Howard and 6’9” Chandler Parsons, with the Rockets often resorting to double teaming. Aldridge still posted 52 points and 20 rebounds in the next two games, becoming the first player since Olajuwon in 1988 to post at least 140 points and 45 rebounds in the first four games of a playoff series.

Granted, his game five numbers were not ideal. Eight points and eight rebounds while shooting 25% is the type of performance only Houston was hoping for. But it’s important to remember that it’s just one game, and that through most of the series, Aldridge is shaking off double teams, and posting more than respectable (if not spectacular) numbers even with a player who has more height, size, and length bearing down on him. That’s the story of a true-superstar, overcoming obstacles to lead your team to victory. Aldridge has led the team in points in games 1, 2, and 4, rebounds in games 1, 3, and 5, and hasn’t played less than 36 minutes in a game yet. It’s because of this other-worldly play that he has the Blazers riding a 3-2 series lead heading in to game six and the chance to end the series, at home, tonight.

LaMarcus simply had an off night, and that happens, but I wouldn’t expect to see an ineffective and frustrated Aldridge tonight. I’d expect to see the same Blazers superstar from games 1-4, and I’d expect to see that same superstar still enjoying a historic run rewriting the Blazers’ franchise record books, through Houston, and in to the next round.

The L-Train made a brief stop, and you’d better believe he’s back to running full speed ahead, and the Western Conference had better get off the tracks before he comes through.

With the other three series in the conference locked in unexpected round one dog fights, Portland has a huge chance in a suddenly wide open race where everyone but the Blazers looks a little more tired and a little less than advertised. And don’t think for a second that Aldridge and Portland haven’t taken notice.

Houston, you have a problem.

His name is LaMarcus Aldridge, and tonight he’s coming to end your season.

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