Aldridge heads to the bench for the #Blazers with 36.7 secs left after a 31-point, 12-rebound night. Blazers will improve to 31-34.
— Joe Freeman (@BlazerFreeman) March 17, 2013
The Blazers have had some meaningful wins and some crushing defeats through 65 games in 2012-13. Even if the season ends at home on the 17th of April against the Golden State Warriors, which it very likely will, strides have been made. Next season will be better than this one, that you can count on.
There will be many many more meaningful games, victories that will entice the fan base into rabid celebration and losses that will feel literally like the end of the world, that you can count on too.
Hopefully, there won’t be many games in the future that were like the one played on Saturday. A meaningless game between two lottery-bound teams with very little on the line. Saturday’s game was lackluster at best for both teams. It was close, then it was a blowout, then it was close, and then it was a blowout. Broken down like that, it might sound like it was an exciting. Sadly, it was not. The back and forth in the scoring came from a combination of less than effective defense and inconsistent offense, two things both teams suffered from.
What made Saturday bearable, the only thing that made Saturday bearable, was the play of LaMarcus Aldridge. 2012-13 will go down as the season of Damian Lillard. It certainly makes sense that the biggest story coming out of Portland this season is that the Blazers have a superstar in the making at point guard. What the story of Damian Lillard shouldn’t overshadow is the continued dominance of LaMarcus Aldridge.
Saturday evening, LA showed once again why he just might be the best power forward in the NBA. Aldridge had a superstar line against a big and physical Detroit defense. His 31 points came on 21 field goal attempts, his 12 rebounds gave him his 31st double-double of the season, and his +11 was second only to Wesley Matthews for game high.
It wasn’t just the stat line that LA finished with that was impressive, Saturday night, it was the way by which he influenced the outcome of the game that really showed how far he’s advanced this season. A Nicolas Batum three with 2:34 left to play in the game snapped an 8-0 Piston’s run and swung this game back in Portland’s favor, but it was a five-point burst provided by LaMarcus Aldridge after back-to-back possessions ended in missed threes by Lillard that sealed the Blazers’ victory.
That back-to-back sequence was part of a 13-point fourth quarter in which LA missed only a single shot, and a 21-point second half in which he only missed twice. Those numbers, and that efficiency was easily the difference maker Saturday night.
Portland very easily could have lost Saturday without the play of LaMarcus Aldridge. Their defense still leaves a lot to be desired, and more often than they should have, the Blazers relied on the deep ball to bail them out against Detroit’s ball pressure. Portland also allowed Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum to combine for 55 points. Just over half a C from a bench point guard and a point guard who isn’t a point guard anymore.
That the Blazers couldn’t stop the Pistons’ back court is not a good sign considering that Portland’s upcoming road trip includes a number of high-scoring point guards. Defense is something that is going to have be addressed going forward. This trip will be important for the Blazers in that it should be a good indicator of this team’s stamina. It’s going to be a tough slog considering a single win would great and two wins would be remarkable.
Saturday night LaMarcus Aldridge extended his streak of games shooting over 43% from the field to five, and his streak of games shooting over 50% to three. He also hasn’t missed a free throw since the 6th of March in Memphis. Portland is going to need LA to put up big scoring numbers every night if he wants to give his team a chance to get wins on the road.
The good thing for Blazer fans is, even if LA doesn’t play out of his mind on the road and Portland doesn’t win any of their next five, coming home and having to admit their season is over, Aldridge hasn’t been forgotten even if his young new point guard is busy filling up the headlines.
Portland tips off it’s five-game trip on Monday against the 76ers in Philadelphia.