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LaMarcus Aldridge ruining Dwight Howard’s chance at redemption

Apr 24, 2014, 1:40 AM EDT

Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge

With his feet held to the fire, Dwight Howard brought the heat.

It took only one playoff game with the Houston Rockets for Howard’s detractors to come out in full force. He lacked the maturity and focus to win in the postseason, they shouted from all directions. But if Howard thought he could escape the spotlight by bolting Los Angeles for Houston, he was sadly mistaken.

Right now, though, Howard and his Rockets have a bigger problem to escape – LaMarcus Aldridge.

Aldridge coolly dismantled the Rockets. Again.

The Trail Blazers forward scored 43 points with eight rebounds and three blocks in Portland’s 112-105 Game 2 win Wednesday.

In two games, Aldridge has 89 points, 26 rebounds and five blocks. More importantly, the Trail Blazers have two wins in Houston.

Teams that open a best-of-seven series with two road wins have won 15 of 18, including sweeping half of them. With Portland rolling, having won seven straight and 11 of 12 dating back to the regular season, this series could join the quick enders.

Howard has lost his last seven and 11 of 13 playoff games, and for him, the doubters will grow only louder. Not even ultra-focused and effective starts will save him.

“We have to play inside out, play their bigs and make it a long night for those guys,” Howard told Jonathan Feigen of Ultimate Rockets before the game. “I have to demand the ball, get it and go to work.”

And he did.

Howard made his first six shots to notch Houston’s first 13 points, outscored the Trail Blazers by himself through the game’s first four minutes and was singlehandedly matching his teammates’ combined scoring  as late as three minutes remaining in the first half.

By halftime, he had 25 points, eight rebounds and two blocks.

His second-half production (seven points, six rebounds and two blocks) would be great for most players, but Howard isn’t most players. His physical talents lend themselves to the perception he should be more dominant – which a petty Shaquille O’Neal perpetuates during halftimes – and more is demanded of him.

Sometimes, that’s fair. Howard failed to pass out of double teams Wednesday, and his individual success remained isolated from team success. Howard’s teammates shot just 37 percent while he was on the court, and when he went cold (missing seven straight shots at one point), he still didn’t integrate his teammates well enough.

But sometimes, the demands on Howard reach unhealthy levels. He said he’d do more in Game 2, and he absolutely did. There are limits on what one player can contribute. Even if Howard didn’t perfectly parlay the attention he received into better looks for his teammates, James Harden (6-of-19 shooting) and Chandler Parsons (5-of-15 shooting) are certainly capable of doing more without their center’s help.

Not that anyone will forgive Howard for the shortcomings of his teammates. Howard’s playoff record is treated as his own although we all know postseason success requires a full team effort.

In a twist, Aldridge gets all the benefit of the doubt Howard doesn’t. Aldridge’s 46 points and 18 rebounds in a Game 1 victory gave him leeway Howard will never receive.

But Aldridge – who has never won a playoff series, let alone led a team to the NBA finals like Howard did the Magic – didn’t rest on his laurels.

He became the first player with consecutive 40-point playoff games since LeBron James in 2009 and just the second since Tracy McGrady in 2003.

Aldridge knifed through the Rockets’ defense off the ball and used expert footwork on the ball to create space, shooting 13-of-19 from mid-range.

aldridge shot chart 4-23-14

To be fair, Aldridge received help Howard didn’t.

Dorell Wright made 3-of-4 3-pointers and added a slick cutting dunk for 15 points on five shots. Damian Lillard shot just 3-for-14, but he got the line (10-of-12 on free throws) and kept the ball moving to the right spots (11 assists).

Howard vs. Aldridge was a tantalizingly fun matchup, and Rockets-Blazers is too. If not for a couple different breaks in an overtime game Sunday, the series could be tied 1-1. Heck, Houston wasn’t that far from winning Game 2.

But in Howard’s world, close doesn’t cut it. Only Aldridge’s.

Not that he needs the margin for error.

  1. lakerade - Apr 24, 2014 at 2:24 AM

    Aldridge’s stroke is so pure. Dwight stays true to form too.

    • spthegr8 - Apr 24, 2014 at 10:22 AM

      L.A. is the BETS Pf in the game….PERIOD!!! He can do it all. That turn around step back is unstoppable!! Stayed up waaaaaaay to late because he was just putting on a show. Unless he get’s hit by a bus. This series is a WRAP!!!!!

  2. kb2408 - Apr 24, 2014 at 2:54 AM

    Dwight is akin to the beautiful girl that is perfect in every way, however, she can’t stay faithful to you. In other words, she breaks your heart over and over again. He was unbelievable in the first half and matched LaMarcus point for point. But in the 2nd half LaMarcus kept going and Dwight faded away. Dwight had 25 at the half, I said at the time he wouldn’t get over 30. I just missed, he got 32. Tonight was a prime example why if Dwight is your number 1 option, your team won’t win a ring. I’m not going to brag and say I told you guys Harden’s not a true “go to guy” like LBJ, KD or Kobe and Wade when they were in their prime. His “performance” in the Finals a couple of seasons ago is beginning to look like more than just a bad case of stage fright. I’m not going to brag and say I told you Houston would get exposed in the playoffs. After the Rockets get demolished in gm 3 the finger pointing will begin. Dwight was already pouting tonight when McHale took him out the game. After gm 1 he was complaining about more shots, even though he had 22 fg attempts. McHale ultimately will be the scapegoat at the end of the season, not that I think he’s that good of a coach anyway.

    • aboogy123456 - Apr 24, 2014 at 8:50 AM

      Harden is a great facilitator on offense but you’re absolutely right, he’s not a go-to option when you need to score. It seems like whenever a great defender is matched up against him, they can take him completely out of the game. There aren’t great defenders every night, but they come in the playoffs and that’s where he’ll come up short. They need a pure scorer to take out the best defender, someone like Melo.

      • spthegr8 - Apr 24, 2014 at 10:13 AM

        @Aboogy&Kb
        You both are 100% right about Harden. He is a good player but he isn’t great. He can only play one side of the ball and when he isn’t scoring. He isn’t bringing much else to the table. The long and the short of it. He is NOT an Elite player. He doesn’t come up big when you need him the most.

      • loungefly74 - Apr 24, 2014 at 10:55 AM

        great point, fellas. yeah DH value is inflated only because of the lack of “big men” in the game. i gotta say, as a Laker fan…i’m super happy Houston is getting crushed.

    • packergator - Apr 24, 2014 at 9:40 AM

      A guy that big needs to be a hungry pit-bull getting to the bucket come playoff time and that’s just not who Dwight Howard is. It’s not his personality, and it never will be.

    • therealhtj - Apr 24, 2014 at 10:59 AM

      You do realize whenever someone says “I’m not going to brag, but . . . ” they’re doing exactly that?

      Congratulations, on your broken clock award. You and every other one of Dwight’s detractors are right again. He’d still be the best player on next year’s Lakers.

    • excelsior07 - Apr 24, 2014 at 11:41 AM

      Not to mention both Harden and Howard are too soft

  3. rainmaker1982 - Apr 24, 2014 at 3:04 AM

    Because the Blazers are in a small market and usually stink, Aldridge has been one of the most underrated players in the league. I haven’t seen a more dominant post player in years. It’s a dying breed.

    On the other side, Dwight Howard made the right choice to leave the Lakers because the media scrutiny would multiply by 1,000 in LA for being down 0-2.

    As a Lakers fan, they’re are pathetic. But Dwight Howard has/will never be the guy who will take over in the 4th quarter; the main reason most Lakers fans don’t miss him.

  4. tomasekradek - Apr 24, 2014 at 3:35 AM

    Why is this all about Howard? He’s not the one who’s letting his team down (yeah, I’m lookin’ at you Hardin). Right now it looks like even climatic changes are his fault. Give credit to LA and let Dwight breath for a momment. It’s not a shame to face (and loose to) a player that good who probably plays his best ball in his life. I know i know he’s not the winner…. and i’m really tired to hear that after every single game. Maybe he’s not and so what? Still a great player, just needs to play with someone better…. and Harden doesn’t look like one in the playoffs, the time when it’s needed

    • money2long - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:03 PM

      Where was Dwight in The 2nd half

      • lunasceiling - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:42 PM

        Same place Harden’s been all series so far…

  5. 1forest1 - Apr 24, 2014 at 3:48 AM

    Still waiting for McHale’s “adjustments” on Aldridge. But at least the Dwight haters should be silenced till Friday

  6. campcouch - Apr 24, 2014 at 5:42 AM

    Portland is just the better team. As much side talk that Charles Barkley does,he’s pretty good with judging teams when he’s serious. All season he pointed out that Houston is a jump shooting team that would fail once the shots stopped falling. Harden reminds me of KB early in his career with hoisting up a shot without even looking around for a better option. Heck,Barkley even told us that Houston would lose depending on Howard. Lin and Parsons tried to will the team back,then Harden did..well,whatever it is he does and those two faded into the background.

    • unxpexted1 - Apr 24, 2014 at 9:16 AM

      I agree, even though Portland is a jump shooting team. They get their shots in different ways. Portland executes in the halfcourt when getting jump shots, where Houston more runs and guns to get them. They haven’t shown much halfcourt execution in the playoffs so far.

  7. gquesen - Apr 24, 2014 at 6:49 AM

    Aldridge is a beast. I love how everyone said the Blazers would fade in the first round. Of course, this series still has a ways to go. But still, people in Houstan, generally speaking everywhere, gave Portland no chance. From the moment this season began, it was all about how they would fade.

  8. 1972wasalongtimeago - Apr 24, 2014 at 7:05 AM

    KD picked Harden over Wade. Consider yourself “shown”

    • money2long - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:04 PM

      What do the numbers say?
      Or are you feeling justified after watching two playoff games

  9. unxpexted1 - Apr 24, 2014 at 9:20 AM

    I think one of the main difference for Harden in the playoffs, is he is not adjusting him game to the lack of calls you recieve in the playoffs That drive to the basket and barrel into a player with the ball out to draw fouls is just not working. I feel he spends more time trying to get fouls then playing the game.

  10. innovativethinking87 - Apr 24, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    Lamarcus > Kevin Love

    • money2long - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:05 PM

      Easier said when we are witnessing one of them play now. Id still take love in a heartbeat

      • shen90 - Apr 24, 2014 at 1:07 PM

        Love is one of those players that only looks great on a bad team. Would take Bosh over Love and I am from Portland. I watched Love in high school, met him, knew some of his coaches. Bosh’s numbers dropped when he went to a good team but he still helps them win. Love would throw a tantrum and become a cancer. He has issues, in large part thanks to his dad.

      • money2long - Apr 24, 2014 at 1:18 PM

        Hahaha what does being from Portland have to do with it
        We all have diff opinions. You’re free to not prefer love. I do. Frankly your reasoning about knowing people doesn’t even do anything to raise your point for me. Love is the way to go for me

  11. flyrocket31 - Apr 24, 2014 at 9:31 AM

    No double team at any point on Aldridge last night. they doubled the dribbler out of the pick and rolls and Aldridge was left wide open (i.e. 13/19 midrange) and got rolling. then couldn’t miss. Harden where are you??????????

    • unxpexted1 - Apr 24, 2014 at 9:45 AM

      I was thinking about that last night too. But Charles brought up a good point. He post up SO far away from the basket. It’s not like he’s on the block, he’s 18 to 20 feet away. The defender’s have to go to far to double him.

  12. shuttaman1990 - Apr 24, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    I love it.
    Bum Dwight, you left us to go play with a dollar store version of our shooting gawd Kobe Bryant. Cracked under the pressure of being the next big man in LA and ran to houston like a coward.
    Now u getting manhandled by LMA like the chump you is.
    I HOPE HOUSTON GETS SWEPT!
    Lakers all day, houston yall suck.

    • loungefly74 - Apr 24, 2014 at 10:58 AM

      i usually dont take comfort on seeing other teams lose…mostly because i don’t care as its a waste of time…BUT…as a Laker fan, it does bring a smile seeing DH and the Rockets getting beat up.

      • billtetley53 - Apr 24, 2014 at 11:29 AM

        Thats ok lounge, we as non lakers fans enjoyed your teams historicallt bad season.
        At least Houston is in the playoffs…….
        Lakers last years:
        2013-2014 worst team in franchise history
        2012-2013 swept in 1st round
        2011-2012 beat 4-1 in 1st round
        2010-2011 swept in 2nd round

        Quite the downward sprial,your team had not contended for 4 years, why are you guys even speaking?
        Oh thats right, youve got to whine about Dwight leaving……

        The Lakers stink and they will for another 5 years, at least.

      • loungefly74 - Apr 27, 2014 at 3:00 PM

        like I said, I usually don’t waste my time talking junk…but hey, funny that you stopped at 2010-2011…why not go back a few years more? oh..thats right, 3 straight years to the finals. how convenient. so…if you tell me my team will go to the finals 3 times in a seven year span? i’ll take it. heck…7 times in 15 years…i’ll take it. im a Laker fan year every year.

        5 more years of stinking? hmmm..maybe, but we shall see. history is on my side that they will be contending before that.

  13. zickhead - Apr 24, 2014 at 10:19 AM

    Wait, but I thought Dwight left Orlando to win a championship and play with better talent.

    • money2long - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:05 PM

      Series isn’t over yet. Let’s see what Dwight can do the rest of the way before people bury him

  14. bballhistorian - Apr 24, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    Lakers fans remain bitter.

    • money2long - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:06 PM

      And you know this, how ?

      • bballhistorian - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:10 PM

        comments…

      • money2long - Apr 24, 2014 at 1:19 PM

        How does this harmless question get thumbd down ?
        Hm. I wonder who could’ve done it

      • billtetley53 - Apr 24, 2014 at 2:35 PM

        Why on earth would you worry about thumbs down? Are you on this site for acceptance?
        Knowing you worry about them so much, im going to thumb diwn every post of yours on general principle!

        By the way, your lakers fan bitterness shows everytime you guys post on a Rockets story.
        Had henot jilted the franchise, you toolboxes wouldnt care. Pathetic fanbase.

  15. bballhistorian - Apr 24, 2014 at 10:41 AM

    Ball goes through Harden…Rockets dont win a ring.

    They at least have a chance when it goes through Dwight. Inside out ball.

    Dwight just showed us…when he puts in mind into it, he actually can be a dominant player (which is what Hakeem and Shaq has been telling him).

    Problem is, the Rockets are used to the soft Dwight and running through Harden, but Harden isnt ready to lead a team in the postseason (13-46FGs so far). They at least have a chance if they are accustomed to the Dwight that showed up yesterday, who easily couldve has 40 but missed about 6 straight layups in the 2nd half.

    But as Barkley said, a dominant Dwight takes the Rockets away from their game plan, which he is right on that. Problem is, that current rockets gameplan will NEVEERRR take them past 2nd round.

    Truth be told, when Rockets lose this series in 6, Dwight and Harden need to have a heart to heart in the offseason and figure out….WHOS TEAM IS THIS? How do we play? Hardens ppl are telling him to run, run, run. Dwights ppl are telling him to demand the ball and be dominant.

    I see a mini Kobe/Shaq type controversy brewing in the next few yrs. As a matter of fact…they neee to watch some old Kobe/Shaq tapes to help them figure out how they BOTH can be effective.

  16. kanemoney - Apr 24, 2014 at 11:58 AM

    The Rockets need a legitimate point guard and a few veteran sharp shooters. Inside out AND fast break can work in tandem. They aren’t going to feed the ball to Dwight every play and win.

    A slowed down half-court game exposes their lack of talent and overall lack of defensive ability (they’re good, not great). They seem completely out of rhythm when they are not flying across the court jacking up 3 pointers with 20 seconds on the shot clock.

    Why? They just aren’t very good top-to-bottom. The reality is that when you have 2 max contracts on your roster, you need what the Heat have – talented vets willing to play for peanuts.

  17. money2long - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:01 PM

    Would Dwight’s teammates rather have him or lamarcus ?
    Hm …

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