Aldridge Does it Again
How do you back up a 42-point game on Monday? How about 37 points and 10 rebounds on the first game of a road trip on Friday?
LaMarcus Aldridge has said that not making the Western Conference All-Star team was no big deal, and that he wasn't that bothered by it. If that's true, he's got a funny way of showing it. He continued his barrage on NBA opponents on Friday night, when he helped the Trail Blazers shoot down the Toronto Raptors 102-96.
Aldridge, who just wrapped up the best week of his NBA career (and should be the leading candidate for Western Conference Player of the Week honors, again), scored 37 points, on 14 of 25 shooting, and grabbed 10 rebounds. He scored 14 of his 37 in the fourth quarter, going 4 of 5 from the field.
Portland, who led by as many as 15, struggled through the third quarter and trailed Toronto 85-78 in the fourth quarter. Fomer Blazer Jerryd Bayless went nuts in the fourth, hitting four three pointers, and scoring 14 points. But, the Blazers calmly outscored the Raptors 24-11 the rest of the way, hitting eight-straight shots at one point, and put the game on ice.
The Trail Blazers, who are 27th in the NBA in field-goal percentage, shot over 50 percent from the field for the third-consecutive game, and scored over 100 points yet again. They are now 18-5 when scoring 100 or more. Portland shot 54 percent against the Raptors.
While Aldridge was brilliant in the second half, and fourth quarter, Rudy Fernandez was the star of the first half. At halftime, the Blazers held an eight-point lead, despite the fact that Andre Miller, Wesley Matthews, and Nicolas Batum were a combined 3 for 9 shooting, and had just 6 points combined.
Fernandez, who came off the bench, saved the starters by going 8 for 8 from the field, 6 for 6 from behind the three-point line, and had 23 points in the first two quarters. It was the most amazing stretch of basketball in Rudy's pro career. And, because Aldridge was so good late, we can forget about the fact that Rudy went 0 for 3 in the second half and didn't score.
Because of the play of Aldridge, Rudy has been overshadowed lately. But, Friday night marked the first time in Rudy's career that he has scored at least 17 points in four-straight games. He's totaled 77 points in the last four games. His previous best was 68 points over a four-game span in his rookie season.
Andre Miller was also clutch, once again, on Friday against the Raptors. He had two clutch buckets in the final two minutes, and ended with 13 points, 8 assists, and 4 rebounds. Batum, who only took 7 shots, helped the team in other ways. He had 7 points, 7 rebounds, 4 blocked shots, and 4 assists.
To listen to Nate McMillan's post-game comments, click here
This was one of those games the Blazers just needed to get through, and move on. In the past couple of years there have been some road trips that have served to define the team. They've always started with the team winning the first game on the trip. Following several disappointing trips this season, the Blazers have talked about the desire to use this three-game trip as a springboard to the rest of the season.
This was a good start.
There are only three games left before the all-star break, and Sunday will be a chance for them to get their 30th win of the season and continue to build momentum.