PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Houston has a LaMarcus Aldridge problem.
The Trail Blazers’ All-Star forward has been dominating with more than 40 points in each of the opening two playoff games with the Rockets in Houston.
Portland is up 2-0 as the series moves to Rip City on Friday night, giving the Rockets little time to figure out how to defend Aldridge.
He opened the playoffs with a franchise postseason-best 46 points in the Blazers’ 122-120 overtime victory, then followed it up with 43 points in the 112-105 win on Wednesday night.
Rockets coach Kevin McHale summed it up best when he said: “So far, he’s had a hell of a series.”
Aldridge found success in the paint in the opener so the Rockets adjusted - but so did Aldridge, who went outside to pepper Houston with midrange jumpers. Thirteen of his 18 field goals came from 10 feet out or more.
“He’s making tough shots, he’s getting to the foul line. He’s offensive rebounding. He’s doing the whole package and it’s tough for us,” said Houston guard James Harden. “We gotta figure something out real soon. In game three, it is either we win or it’s over.”
Aldridge is the first player to score 43 or more points in consecutive playoff games since Tracy McGrady in 2003, and the first to score at least 40 in back-to-back postseason games since LeBron James in 2009.
It almost goes without saying that Aldridge is the first Blazer with at least 40 points in back-to-back playoff games.
“You can tell just by his approach how he’s really dialed in and he’s playing big. He’s really taken it upon himself to do all these things,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said Thursday. “Give him all the credit. He’s been wanting this moment for a long time and he’s rising to the challenge.”
Aldridge acknowledged the team for his success.
“This team in general just believes in me so much and they ride the wave so well,” he said. “When I’m going one through 15, they are all cheering and telling me to shoot it. If I pass up a shot, they’re all mad at me and I think having 15 guys having your back like that is great.”
Aldridge’s play has put Portland in charge as the team returns home. The Blazers haven’t opened a playoff series 2-0 since 1977, when they got the early jump on the Lakers en route to the Western Conference title. Portland went on to beat Philadelphia for its lone NBA championship
Portland ranked seventh in the league during the regular season with just 10 losses at home.
Only three teams have come back to win after losing the first two games of a seven-game series at home: The last was the 2004-05 Mavericks, who came back against the Rockets. Houston is 0-7 overall when falling behind 0-2 in the first round since the 1983-84 expansion.