Apr 23, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) shoots during the second quarter as Houston Rockets center Omer Asik (3) defends in game two during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

How Should The Rockets Defend LaMarcus Aldridge?

LaMarcus Aldridge has been absolutely unstoppable in the first two games of the Rockets-Blazers series. 46 points in game one. 43 points in game two. Jumpers hitting nothing but the bottom of the net. Aldridge is one of the main reasons the Blazers are up 2-0 in the series as they head to Portland for the next two games.

In two games this series, Aldridge has hit 35 of his 59 shots, good for a red-hot 59% from the field, including a perfect 2/2 from beyond the arc.

Here are his Game 1 highlights:

Scored 46 points on 17-of-31 shooting from the field, 2-of-2 from three and 10-of-13 from the free throw line in Portland's Game 1 win.

Scored 46 points on 17-of-31 shooting from the field, 2-of-2 from three and 10-of-13 from the free throw line in Portland’s Game 1 win.

What happened in game one? He dominated the Rockets down low. You’ll see from the video that he took advantage of guys like Terrence Jones and Chandler Parsons trying to defend him, and took them into the paint for an easy layup, dunk, or hook shot. He was also able to outrebound the smaller defender and put back easy layups for a nice chunk of his points.

However, he struggled shooting from 16-24 feet, hitting just 1/8 shots, though he did knock down both of his three point attempts. When the Rockets put Dwight Howard or Omer Asik on him, Aldridge had to work a lot harder for his points. He was still able to make several contested jumpers, but was forced to score from outside the paint and put up tougher shots.

Now let’s take a look at game two:

Aldridge scored the majority of his points from the outside in game two. He went 7/9 from 16-24 ft range on the left side. Kevin McHale did elect to put Howard or Asik on him most of the game, but he was still able to drain jumpers over the Rockets big men. The Rockets struggled to keep up with Aldridge on pick and rolls, which gave the power forward several open looks to get himself in a groove. 

My Advice

I may be in the minority, but I like what I saw in game two. Though there were times were Aldridge was left open off switches and late rotations, the Rockets were mostly in Aldridge’s face on shot attempts. He was hitting. Keep in mind the 28-year old only hit under 46% from the field this season, a bit lower than his 48.8% career field goal percentage. He was scorching in game two. The best defense, in that case, won’t even get the job done. At one point in game two, Aldridge was a blistering 14/18 from the field.

When Aldridge was playing against one of the centers, he did most of his damage from the outside. When he was going up against Parsons, Garcia, or Jones, he took advantage of their size and went to the paint. McHale did go with the bigger centers on Howard in game two, and the difference was obvious though it didn’t help much. As anyone can tell you, GM Daryl Morey too, the Rockets would much prefer to allow Aldridge to shoot his contested jumpers rather than taking point blank shots from the paint. It may not have helped in game two, but it will hopefully help as the series continues.

The Rockets need to go to a Dwight Howard/Omer Asik lineup when Aldridge is in the game. Terrence Jones has had a great season, but he has been getting killed by either Aldridge, or the other PF/C he defends when the other Rocket is on Aldridge. Robert Lopez destroyed Jones on the glass in game two, something the Rockets need to control when Aldridge is missing his shots.

The Rockets may also try forcing Aldridge to his right and keeping him on the right side of the floor. Aldridge is a better shooter from the left side of the court (click to see shot chart), and the Rockets need to do everything they can to make him as uncomfortable as possible.

I don’t think sending a double-team will help. The Rockets are already a pathetic defensive team and asking them to rotate off of a double-team would be like asking Matt Schaub to engineer a game-winning drive. In other words, don’t even try it. It’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Keeping Asik or Howard on Aldridge while the other center defends the paint and control the boards should give the Rockets a better result in game three and the rest of the series. Aldridge won’t continue to hit at the rate he has through the first two games. After going 14/18 through the first 30+ minutes of game two, he finished just 4/10 from the field. He’s human. He will cool down. He has to.

The defense on Aldridge was pretty good in game two and things will get better. I promise.

…Or, we could always go with this approach:

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