Trail Blazers vs Rockets Friday, 04/05/13 AT 07:30PM

Aldridge's 32 In Return Not Enough To Keep Up With Rockets

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


    The Portland Trail Blazers (33-43) were unable to stop the machine of the Houston Rockets (43-33) despite 32 points and 13 rebounds from LaMarcus Aldridge in his return after missing four games. The Trail Blazers lost by the final score of 116-98 for their seventh straight defeat as Nicolas Batum was out for the second-straight game.

    The first quarter started the game off in an entertaining way, despite the amount of whistles, which slowed down the game's tempo in the early going. Two of the league's best scorers were going at it and a National TV audience was given, what seemed to be a preview of a shootout that would go down to the wire. The Trail Blazers had added firepower with the return of Aldridge and he started off hot with 14 points. However, James Harden had 17 points in the first quarter, which was unfortunately a sign of things to come as the Trail Blazers struggled to contain him for the second consecutive meeting.

    "He showed why he's an All-Star and why he's made a big difference in the franchise. He can score in a lot of different ways," Stotts said about Harden, who finished with 33 points, seven assists and six rebounds. "He's a tough guard -- he can shoot threes, get to the free throw line. When they get threes going, it makes it especially difficult."

    Unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, Harden wasn't the only one who had it going for Houston as they made 12 of their 28 three point attempts (42.9 percent).

    But, behind Aldridge, they stayed close after one and closed the first quarter on a good run to get the lead back down to manageable four. However, as the few games have shown, life without Aldridge can be tough and when Aldridge sat at the beginning of the second quarter, the lead ballooned to 19.

    Aldridge came back and things settled back down, after Houston's second unit, led by the havoc wreaking Patrick Beverley (7 points, six assists in 22 minutes and tenacious defense) teaming up with Jeremy Lin (22 points, eight assists), opened up a sizable lead. The Trail Blazers went to a zone defense towards the end of the second half and Will Barton helped bring some energy off the bench on both ends. Barton had one of his better performances, scoring nine points and tying career highs in rebounds (six) and assists (four). The Trail Blazers were able to get some easy buckets in transition and get the lead back to seven at halftime with Aldridge leading the charge with 24 points and 10 rebonds at halftime.

    "I felt good, a little tender but for the most part I felt okay. At the end, I finally jumped off it at the end it was a little tender, but other than that, I felt good," Aldridge said.

    The Trail Blazers struggled to score in the second half as they were hampered by inaccuracy from the three-point line, going two of 20 from deep. For the second straight game, the Trail Blazers shot worse than 15 percent from the three-point line. Also, they had back-to-back turnovers to end the third quarter, putting themselves in a very tough position. Both Stotts and LaMarcus Aldridge were not happy with the mental mistakes that shouldn't happen at this point in the season.

    "It's in general -- it's not just one thing. You hate to come away with a loss. You hate to give up 63 points in the first half. You hate to have mental breakdowns at the end of the third quarter. You can't have mental mistakes. I think we should be past some of these things," said Stotts.

    "I think the effort was there, we just have to play smarter. We had a lot of brain farts tonight, we had a lot of miscommunication. We had a lot of moments where we had it down and then we have a turnover or make a boneheaded play. They always capitalized really well off our turnovers and things like that," said Aldridge.

    The Rockets (14) actually turned the ball over more times than the Trail Blazers (13), but the Rockets were able to get 15 points off Portland turnovers and it seemed they were always at the wrong time. Additionally, when you make 12 threes, the turnovers become less of an issue where as the Trail Blazers only made two.

    The Trail Blazers got a lift from Aldridge and some encouraging play from Barton off the bench. However, the Trail Blazers were unable to find their perimeter jumper and against a team that takes as many and makes as many as the Rockets do, it's a death sentence, even if your All-Star is playing like an All-Star.

    Damian Lillard, who finished with 11 points and seven assists on the night it was announced he won his fifth-straight Western Conference Rookie Of The Month award also wore a protective layer over his shoulder for the first time. He said he feels it when he moves his arms up above the waist but says he will practice tomorrow and play in the next game against Dallas on Sunday.

    Also, one last housekeeping note, the Trail Blazers were officially eliminated from playoffs after Utah beat New Orleans earlier this evening.

    The Trail Blazers play again on Sunday against the Dallas Mavericks at 6PM. The game will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

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