It’s been pretty apparent over the past couple of weeks that the Portland Trail Blazers have been ailing. They’ve steadily been tumbling down the NBA’s Western Conference standings after once sitting at the top. They’re not in danger of missing the postseason yet, but they haven’t looked like a playoff team in quite a while, a big reason being the absence of All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
After missing seven games, though, Aldridge returned to action for Portland on Thursday night against the Atlanta Hawks and things seem to all turn around for the Trail Blazers just like that. Aldridge led the way for Portland with 25 points, 16 rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal in 32 minutes as they walked away with a 100-85 victory to end a three-game losing streak.
With Aldridge out of the lineup, the Trail Blazers were an absolute wreck. Their offense was noticeably out-of-sync and their defense was substantially worse. Though Aldridge isn’t a great defender, but the Trail Blazers were struggling in terms of rebounding without him on the floor which created extra opportunities offensively for opponents while he was sidelined. Against the Hawks, Aldridge obviously did his share on the glass and the Trail Blazers out-rebounded Atlanta 47-39 while also allowing just 10 offensive rebounds.
While the Blazers are certainly still suspect heading into the playoffs as they are entirely too dependent upon their offense and the three-pointer, having Aldridge back certainly solidifies their position a bit more. Having his offensive presence opens up the floor for their shooters and his rebounding greatly aids their defensive effort. Portland has been slipping, but things should turn around more towards the positive over the last few weeks of the season now that their power forward is back on the floor.