An hour or so after Game 2’s final horn—after dust settled, blood dried, and small children stopped crying—Chandler Parsons stood in front of his locker, showered, dressed in clean clothes, all ready to explain the unexpected carnage the world had just witnessed on national television.
A few minutes into the scrum, a reporter asks Parsons about Portland’s sweet, soul-crushing big man, LaMarcus Aldridge. With lifeless eyes, Parsons scratches his beard and gives an answer:
…ain’t nobody in the world who can guard him one-on-one right now. You can’t even really knock Terrence, or Omer or Dwight’s defense because they’re playing him tough and contesting everything. There’s nothing much left to do besides just straight up double-teaming him to get the ball out of his hands and make their other guys beat us.
This wasn’t hyperbole. It wasn’t crazy. It wasn’t an excuse. Aldridge is out of this world right now, torturing one fan base while another dances on his shoulders. He has 89 points in 81 playoff minutes, shooting 59.3% from the floor with a 41.6 PER. Nobody has a higher True Shooting percentage or Offensive Rating. Nobody has more Win Shares. His shot chart resembles a well-manicured lawn.
Aldridge is just the third player to score at least 40 points in Games 1 and 2 on the road in NBA playoff history, joining Michael Jordan and Tracy McGrady. Furthermore: Only four other players in NBA history have scored at least 89 points in their first two games of a playoff season: Jordan (112 points in the 1986 playoffs and 105 in the 1988 playoffs), Jerry West (101 in the 1965 playoffs), Elgin Baylor (89 in the 1961 playoffs), and McGrady (89 in the 2003 playoffs). What Aldridge is doing happens about once every 20 years.
Which brings us to the million dollar question. How do the Houston Rockets stop him? Aldridge is a mid-range specialist. His sweet spot gives analytical NBA thinkers a migraine. If Omer Asik or Dwight Howard puts a knee in Aldridge’s behind and nudges him out to 18 feet, then gets a hand in his face to strongly contest an off balance jumper, there’s no shame if the ball goes in. This is good defense. But when this exact sequence happens roughly 19 possessions in a row, it’s time to try something else.
Here’s a look at how the Rockets guarded Aldridge in Game 2, and what they might want to try as the series heads to the Pacific Northwest. Read More