After spending the first two weeks of the postseason atop David Thorpe’s Playoff MVP rankings, Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge has dropped to the No. 5 spot as he as the rest of the team head home to Portland down 2-0 to the Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals …
I think it is clear to everyone now — there is a stark difference between the defense Houston plays and the one the Spurs employ. Just ask Aldridge, who has been so flummoxed by the combination of Tiago Splitter’s on-ball defense and Tim Duncan’s help defense that he is missing uncontested dunks and simple jump hooks on the rare occasions he earns them.
Still, Aldridge’s ability to make perimeter shots and his overall outstanding effort in working to get great shots means the Spurs can’t relax at all on defense. His motor is strong, and if the Blazers work their spacing better and put center Robin Lopez farther away as Aldridge works his low-post game (thus taking Duncan’s help away), then Aldridge should be able to score efficiently against Splitter. If he can’t, their chances are toast.
Aldridge is averaging 28.4 points, 11.4 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.9 assists in the playoffs, though he’s coming of arguably his worst offensive performance of the postseason in Portland’s 114-97 loss in Game 2, scoring 16 points on 26 percent shooting from the field.
“I definitely wasn’t in a good rhythm (Thursday night),” said Aldridge. “I missed two dunks and four or five layups, so if those shots go in then the whole game is different.”
If you’re looking for a reason to think Aldridge’s performance in Game 3 at the Moda Center on Saturday will be different than his 6 for 23 performance from Game 2, consider this: Aldridge followed up an eight-point, 3 of 12 shooting performance in Portland’s Game 5 loss to the Rockets in the first round with a 30-point, 10 of 26 performance in Game 6. So basically, he could be due for a bounce back game, which would greatly help Portland’s chances of getting back into the series and his prospect of moving back up the postseason MVP rankings (though I guarantee he could care less about the second part).