LaMarcus Aldridge has enjoyed a breakthrough season with the Trail Blazers.
Tonight might have been his masterpiece.
Aldridge abused the Houston Rockets’ inability to find a player to match him, scoring a career- and franchise playoff-high 46 points and hauled down 18 boards before fouling out with a minute to play in the 122-120 overtime win.
Damian Lillard took over from there, scoring five straight points and ending with 31 on the night, including the tying and go-ahead free-throws with 17 seconds to go. Joel Freeland split a pair for the final margin.
The threat of Aldridge was talked about heading into this series as the Rockets seemed to lack an answer to the big man’s tweener game. Kevin McHale couldn’t ask Dwight Howard to tire himself out chasing Aldridge near the perimeter and Terrence Jones found himself torched play after play.
Aldridge hit 17 of his 31 shots before fouling out setting a hard screen on Patrick Beverly, who also left the game after re-injuring his surgically-repaired right knee.
Portland had trailed by 13, 96-83, in the fourth quarter before using a 10-0 run to tie the game at 98, utilizing the notorious Hack-a-Howard strategy – intentionally fouling the center, who would hit just 9 of 17 free-throw attempts.
Dwight Howard scored 27 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. James Harden equalled him with 27 of his own but was an ineffective 8-28 from the floor.
Portland Trail Blazers
LaMarcus Aldridge: 46 points, 17-31 FGS, 18 REB
Damian Lillard: 31 points, 9-19 FGS, 10-12 FTS
Wes Matthews: 18 points, 6-16 FGS
Dwight Howard: 27 points, 9-21 FGS, 15 REB
James Harden: 27 points, 8-28 FGS, 6 AST
Chandler Parsons: 24 points, 10-21 FGS
Game 2: Wednesday, April 23rd, 9:30 ET (TNT)