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Aldridge's Effort Not Enough Against Lakers

12/28/12
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    LaMarcus Aldridge had a monster game of 26 points through three quarters for the Trail Blazers (14-14) but he was the only Trail Blazers that had a good night as the Lakers (15-15) as they fell in LA 104-87. The Trail Blazers won't get any time to dwell on the loss as they will fly back to Portland tonight to take on the 76ers tomorrow in Portland.

    The Lakers lost their first game since the return of Steve Nash on Wednesday in Denver and had a poor defensive performance. They came in and imposed their will and came out with one mission: stop Damian Lillard. They threw a bigger guard in Darius Morris on Lillard and Lillard had a rough night going 4-17 for 11 points. Nobody else could really get anything going offensively except Aldridge and Dwight Howard (21 points, 14 rebounds) and Kobe Bryant (27 points) dominated for the Lakers.

    The Lakers were playing inspired ball in the early going. Nash was slicing and dicing the Trail Blazers defense, getting a few buckets of his own but mostly facilitating the ball to Howard and Bryant. On defense, the Lakers treated this like a playoff game, going all out to stop Lillard. They had Darius Morris pick him up full court and force the Trail Blazers to set up the offense without Lillard on the ball. Stotts didn't use that as an excuse, however, and attributed the struggles to a rough shooting night for Lillard, which happens sometimes.

    “I thought Damian had a lot of shots that he could make. They have good length when he drives in there," Stotts said. "It’s Gasol, Hill and Howard, and they are long, but I thought he had a lot of shots he could make and he didn’t make them tonight."  

    The Trail Blazers were able to dump the ball into Aldridge to find offense has he had a very efficient game, going 12-17, carrying the Trail Blazers starting unit offensively. However, despite Aldridge's success, the Trail Blazers offense lacked the flow that Stotts often emphasizes. Essentially, without Lillard getting his hands on the ball, the whole offense suffered a lack of flow.

    “We got outplayed tonight. Lakers played really well, we didn’t necessarily play well," Stotts said.  "Obviously LaMarcus carried us for the long stretch, but the Lakers outplayed us. ”

    Two men that were not in the flow at all were Nicolas Batum and JJ Hickson. The Lakers were just fine making Aldridge go one-on-one, efficient as he was, because it didn't allow the Trail Blazers to get into a collective rhythm. Batum (10 points, 8 assists, five rebounds) didn't hit a single three and the Trail Blazers only hit  only three of their 19 (15.8 percent) attempts on the night. Last time, the three point shot was a major weapon the Trail Blazers used to defeat the Lakers, tonight, the shot making ability wasn't there. Hickson's energy also seemed like it wasn't much of a factor tonight against the Lakers size. The effort was there from JJ, as it always is, but there were times when the size of Gasol and Howard visibly disrupted his ability to be effective in the paint. The match-up against Howard on the other end was no easy task and Hickson had a rough night going 0-for-7, scoring only two points and grabbing eight rebounds.

    The second quarter was when the Trail Blazers really had a chance to cut into the Lakers lead when the Lakers bench was in. The bench had good spurts to get the game within a couple of possessions but each time the Trail Blazers got close, the Lakers would unleash a run. A 14-4 run here, a 10-2 run there and any sense of Trail Blazers hope would be lost in another Lakers barrage. Will Barton turned in a good performance off the bench with 11 points, six rebounds and two blocks, for his second consecutive double-digit scoring performance.

    All in all, this was not the Trail Blazers night. They didn't even play poorly but they were outplayed by a veteran team that played inspired ball on both ends. Lillard, the man who gets them going offensively, had a rough shooting night and the whole team couldn't buy a three-point bucket, even if the clean looks were hard to come by. They even had two wide-open dunk attempts that didn't go in, that's just how it went.  Now, the Trail Blazers comeback to the Pacific Northwest for one more home game before they hit the road for four games.

    The game tomorrow tips off at 7PM at the Rose Garden against the Philadelphia 76ers. It will air on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

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