· In 2009, LaMarcus Aldridge was playing in his first playoff series, coincidentally enough, against the Houston Rockets. The first two games were in Portland, with the series moving to Houston for Games 3 and 4.
After the first two games, Aldridge didn’t fly with the team to Houston, for reasons that were not immediately known at the time. It would eventually come out that Aldridge, who has always preferred to keep his private life private, left the team to be present for the birth of his first child, Jaylen. He would rejoin the team in time for Game 3, finishing with 13 points, eight rebounds and five blocks in a 86-83 loss.
Aldridge was back in Houston on his son’s fifth birthday Wednesday night, though his performance and the final result would be much different this time around. Aldridge would finish with 43 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in Portland’s 112-105 victory in Game 2. His game, like his son, has grown significantly in five years.
Young Jaylen didn’t spend his birthday at the Toyota Center watching his father put on yet another dominant performance. After all, an arena in which 18,000 fans are cursing your fathers’ existence is no place for a child, but he was watching at home, perhaps while enjoying some birthday cake.
“He had text me and said — what he say? — I look like Spiderman when I had dunked the one ball,” said Aldridge. “He had fun watching the game. That was just fun for me.”
· Aldridge, prior to his 46-point, 18-rebound performance in Game 1, decided to try something different. Usually the first game of a playoff series isn’t the preferred time to switch up routines, but for whatever reason, Aldridge made one minor change: he drank a carton of coconut water, an elixir that has recently grown in popularity, particularly in Portland, in the last couple of years.
And after Game 1’s overtime victory, Aldridge guzzled down another carton of coconut water in one series of uninterrupted gulps.
So rather than tempting the fates like he had by changing his regiment in Game 1, Aldridge did the same thing before and after to Game 2.
“I did do coconut water pregame and postgame. We did it last game, I played great, so I just did it again this game.”
It’s safe to assume he’ll do the same thing Friday before and after Game 3.
· After reading a story here on ForwardCenter.net about Mo Williams speaking to Nicolas Batum during Game 1 in an effort to shake the small forward out of a first-half malaise, some responded that maybe Williams, whose three-point, two-assist performance in Game 1 wasn’t exactly awe-inspiring, should give himself a pep talk.
It turns out, Williams, along with fellow veteran Dorell Wright, who was also disappointed with his play in Game 1, did just that prior to Game 2.
“Me and Mo spoke before the game because we didn’t have a good showing, we feel like, in the first game,” said Wright. “Just come out aggressive, play our game and do what we do. This is why we were brought here, for these moments in the playoffs and I feel like we both went out there and played a solid game.”
“That’s my buddy right there,” said Williams within earshot of Wright. “Me and D.Wright, we always sit beside each other on the plane, on the bench, we always at dinner or somewhere together. With us both not playing well in Game 1 we just looked at each other, said ‘Hey man, tonight’s the night. We’ve got to come alive and be aggressive. We’ve got to make shots.’ We both did a good job of that.”
They certainly did. After Aldridge, no two players were more important to Portland’s Game 2 victory that Williams and Wright, who scored 28 of the Trail Blazers 30 bench points Wednesday night.
· Robin Lopez wasn’t having the best time of his life defending Dwight Howard in the first half of Game 2. Howard scored Houston’s first 13 points and finished the first half with 25 points on 11 of 17 shooting. And while it might have been personally frustrating for Lopez, he didn’t commit unnecessary fouls or let Howard’s outburst keep him from executing Portland’s game plan. And his teammates wouldn’t let him hang his head, even as Howard was was scoring over and around RoLo and everyone else who tried to check him in the first half.
“My teammates had my back,” said Lopez. “It makes it easy for me to play that way, keep my head up, keep playing.”
Even with Howard’s scoring prolifically, the teams entered the halftime tied 53-53. And in the second half, RoLo would have his revenge, scoring just one less point than “Superman” while also coming away victorious.
“You’ve got to stay with the game plan,” said Wright. “This is a game of runs, it’s the playoffs, it’s a lot of opportunities to hit threes, get our own post game going. You just can’t overreact to that. (Howard) is a great player and you’ve got to expect that. RoLo did a great job making him take tough shots and just trying to contain him. I think we did a great job with him in the second half.”
“Good players, they usually score in bundles,” said Lopez. “He just happened to score at the beginning of the game as opposed to the end. That happens sometimes. I’m not sure if it’s anything we did, he’s just a very good player, a very talented player.”
· Finally, while there wasn’t a single player, coach or staff member who wasn’t absolutely ecstatic to be in attendance for two Trail Blazers victories in Houston, all were very anxious to get back to Portland for Friday’s Game 3 versus the Rockets at the Moda Center.
“We know that the next two are going to be huge and we know Rip City is going to be crazy,” said Nicolas Batum who, along with Aldridge and Wesley Matthews, are the only Blazers who have played in a playoff game at the Moda Center. “I can’t wait to go home.”
The first home game of the postseason is always an exciting one, but to enter that atmosphere with a chance to take a 3-0 lead only adds to the anticipation for the players and fans alike.
“It’s two games, we would really like to get this next one,” said Lopez. “I’m excited to see the Portland fans. I know they’re excited to see us.”