LaMarcus Aldridge had quite a night on Tuesday in the Rose Garden, scoring a game-high 28 points and shooting 4-of-6 in the fourth quarter to keep the Trail Blazers within striking distance of the Grizzlies. Unfortunately, Memphis was able to hold on to defeat Portland, 102-97, but not before Aldridge was able to make his mark on the interior of the best defense in the league.
It’s no big secret LA prefers the finesse game of shooting fadeaways to the physicality of grinding all night in the low post, but he’s typically been able to adjust to a night or two of bumping down low when his matchup calls for it. But this season, Memphis’ one-two punch of strong bigs in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol has proven a worthy adversary for the two-time All-Star, and his struggles have shown in his stat lines.
In the previous meetings between the two teams, one in early January and the other last week, Z-Bo (Randolph) was out due to injury, allowing 7-foot Gasol to go toe-to-toe with Aldridge. This matchup proved fruitful for the Grizzlies who limited LA to 15 points the first night and just 10 points on 2-of-13 shooting the second. The common denominator in the two games was Aldridge’s reliance on his go-to game of jumpers and his failure to acclimate to gritty play in the post.
But all is not lost in two "off" games, the opposite in fact. Aldridge took to watching tape before the game on Tuesday and spotted the trend, leading to a mental adjustment and a course of action that pointed him straight to the paint.
“Z-Bo said I’m gonna take jump shots all game, so I was trying to go to the basket more,” Aldridge said. “I think really the first two games in Memphis, I thought they played me more for my jump shot. I watched film and I saw that I can go to the basket more, so I thought tonight I wanted to do that more and I thought that was good for us.
“I think I just felt better tonight. I thought they had really played me tough early and they dig hard. They played me different early since I didn’t play well those first two games, but I played more relaxed tonight and I just played better.”
With the loss tonight, Memphis takes the lead in the season series, 2-1, the last meeting between the two slated for April 3rd in the Rose Garden—another opportunity for Aldridge to change it up and gut the Grizzlies’ stellar defense from the inside out.