Oh boy, that was sure exciting. Overtime game, the Blazers erased a deficit in the fourth AND in overtime, LaMarcus drilled a crazy three. Woo boy, basketball’ll get your blood racin’. Gawlee.
Tonight’s game probably won’t be as exciting, or certainly won’t be more exciting. I mean, it theoretically could be more exciting, but there would have to be, like, multiple buzzer beaters and second or third overtimes or half court stepbacks that are somehow worth five points and cut the lead to seven with seven minutes to go. Robin Lopez would have to drag Clutch the Cat onto the court and behead him, making official both his war with mascot kind and the city of Houston. Game 1 set a high bar to clear!
LaMarcus Aldridge probably had the best game of his career last time out, and although it would be unreasonable to expect that to happen again, there were still encouraging signs that he has purged some of his less efficient tendencies for the playoffs. Terrence Jones and Chandler Parsons are too short and lack beef and burl enough to deal with him in the low post. LMA played these matches about as well as he could last time out, not settling for turnarounds but backing down and going in for layups. Aldridge has also apparently sworn off swearing off playing center. This allows for offensive mismatches against Howard (The last Blazers playoff team had the best offensive lineup in the NBA, and it featured Aldridge at center) Aldridge even handled the Dwight Howard-in-the-post assignment really well. He is taller than Howard, after all.
The Blazers used a hack on Dwight in game one and it worked and I find that troubling. Dwight is not some apocalyptic free throw shooter. 54% still means 1.08 Points Per Possession, a mark that would distinguish an offense as one of the best in the NBA. Fouling Dwight allows the Rockets to set their half court defense. But this is not terrible devastating for Portland, as they don’t fast break very much and have a really good half court offense. Part of the reason #hacking #Dwight #disruption worked on Sunday is that McHale got scared and pulled Dwight, giving the Blazers one minute without one of the NBA’s best players. I can’t imagine we’ll see that again if the Blazers opt to go for a hack again. The other reason it worked is that it slowed down the clock and gave the Blazers more time to execute; that was a highly situational circumstance, though. What I’m saying is that my eyes will roll out of my head if they hack Dwight in the middle of the game and they’re up 10 or something.
Wes Matthews might not be equipped to guard James Harden. Wes is a very aggressive and physical defender, which works against a player who likes clean shots and shit. But Harden is not this player. Now, some people out there will take this opportunity to drag Harden in the mud; words like “flopper” and “cheater” and “Frito-encrusted beard” will get thrown around. I am a gentleman who will be more civil than that. James Harden is very good at shooting and driving into contact and making sure that he gets foul calls on that contact. Some people regard this as low level cheating that was invented when Europeans started playing basketball. THIS IS NOT THE CASE: check out this highlight mix of Bob Pettit, the 1956 and 1959 NBA MVP; he leans into contact on practically every jumper he takes. Lay off James Harden, guys. Does he practice basketball witchcraft? Absolutely. But everyone has some deal with the devil at their job. Anyway, Batum is probably a better option on Harden, when Portland can get the matchup.
Dwight, in deference to big man tradition, told gathered reporters that he needed the ball in the post more. How should you feel about this, if it actually happens? Well: Dwight, on the whole, is a more efficient pick and roll player than he is a post-up player. Post-ups are, at this point in NBA History, less efficient by their nature and Dwight is not a terribly fluid mover on the block or a terribly good passer out of it. But he is very fast, and Robin Lopez, the Blazer that has drawn this matchup the most, is not very fast. So when Dwight gets the ball in perfect position, he has a pretty effective drop-step-two-dribble thing that makes points. I actually thought — without the benefit of Synergy data or anything — Aldridge looked better on Dwight. LaMarcus is stronger than Lopez and Dwight is not tall so that’s not really a problem. We’ll see what happens!
Hey, Damian was really good, even with Beverly face-guarding him! Beverly might have knee troubles right now and could be playing not quite at 100%. You never wish knee problems on anyone of course, even if they are a basketball terrorist who has no regard for human life and might’ve slowly poisoned Jeremy Lin so he could take his minutes, but if Lillard has an edge, you know he’ll go at it. Hey, is Beverley really going to play on a maybe injured knee? Seems like a bad idea.