The Portland Trail Blazers seemed like a prime candidate to regress after their hot start to the 2013-14 NBA season. Portland was expected to improve from last season, but their 22-4 start and 25-7 record through the first two months of the season was something that no one really saw coming.
Coming into Tuesday night’s matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder, though, the Blazers were just 11-8 since the start of January. They’ve still played well, but this Portland team has started to show some of its flaws, particularly on the defensive end of the floor and in regard to how heavily reliant they are on their starting five, particularly on All-Stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard.
Against the Thunder, the Blazers looked to Aldridge and Lillard for answers down the stretch, but they weren’t there. Despite holding a 10-point lead at halftime, the Blazers let the Thunder claw back in the second half and were eventually edged out by a score of 98-95.
Lillard’s 16 points and seven assists were solid, but his 5-15 shooting from the floor and 1-7 shooting from three-point range were certainly troubling, but they weren’t nearly as detrimental as Aldridge’s lack of efficiency on the evening. Aldridge managed just 12 points on the night, shooting just 5-22 from the floor and getting to the foul line just twice. He notched 12 boards, but also turned the ball over four times.
Over the season, Aldridge has garnered a lot of recognition as possibly being the best power forward in the league. While he’s been fantastic this season, it’s hard to call a player that averaged 24.1 points on 21 shots per game the best at his position in the league.
You can’t knock Aldridge’s play this year entirely because he has been a force and has been a big part of this team’s success. However, his high-usage style of play is somewhat of a weakness in games against teams like OKC. Obviously a 5-22 shooting night is an anomaly and far from the norm. However, whenever the Blazers are up against a hyper-efficient offense like the one that the Thunder run, the chance that Aldridge’s inefficiency could burn them is always there.