As tipoff approaches and we all prepare for one hell of a game between the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets, let’s take a moment to look back at the performance that stunned the Rockets this season. On a night where Dwight Howard scored 32 points with 17 rebounds, LaMarcus Aldridge scored 31 with 25 to lead the Trail Blazers to a 111-104 victory at home. This is what we need to see from Aldridge tonight and, you know what, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising.
Aldridge has averaged 26.8 points and 15.5 rebounds against the Rockets this season, including two games with 20+ points and 20+ rebounds. Neither Howard nor Terrence Jones has been able to cool him off at the elbow. Howard is too hesitant to step out of his shot blocking zone and Jones is too raw to shut him down on the left side. Aldridge is the only high-volume scorer on this Trail Blazers team for which the Rockets have no immediate answer.
It’s time for him to come up big. I don’t mean his usual 23 and 11 on career-low shooting percentage, I mean absolutely dominant from the opening whistle. Yes, this may be an unfair expectation, but it’s necessary for the Trail Blazers to win. Aldridge has shown a consistent ability to waste through the Rockets’ defense slowly and methodically. If we see the same Aldridge tonight that we saw in December – the same Aldridge that garnered MVP chants at the free throw line – the Trail Blazers could steal game 1.