The Associated Press
HOUSTON — A day after etching his name in Portland’s record books with a franchise playoff-record 46 points in Game 1 of the first-round playoff series against Houston, LaMarcus Aldridge was already looking forward.
“It was a true blessing to play on that level and to be in that select company and I’m happy about it and it’s time to move on,” Aldridge said.
The Trail Blazers rallied from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit and got a 122-120 overtime win on Sunday night.
Aldridge’s big night got off to a slow start and he said Monday that he felt bad before the game and was worried he might have a fever.
“When the game started I still kind of felt junky my first few shots and I was kind of like: ‘Oh man,”’ he said. “And the second half I just kind of found it.”
Did he ever. Aldridge made almost 55 percent of his shots including both of his 3-point attempts in a night where he scored the most points of his career. He also dominated on the glass, grabbing 18 rebounds and blocking two shots.
Houston coach Kevin McHale was left shaking his head at what the 28-year-old did to his team. Aldridge is known by the nickname “L-Train” and McHale and the Rockets did not have an answer for him on Sunday.
“We’ve got to slow him down,” McHale said. “He was just a runaway train last night.”
Dwight Howard said the Rockets will try to throw some different matchups at Aldridge in Game 2 on Wednesday night to try and keep him in check. But, he said the key to containing him might come on the other end of the court.
“We’ve got to go right back at him,” Howard said. “He got a rest on defense. We’ve got to make him play defense — make him use his energy on the defensive end instead of just trying to get rebounds. We need to attack.”
James Harden hated how easy the Rockets made things for Aldridge in Game 1.
“He was just too comfortable out there offensively,” Harden said. “He got the ball where he wanted to and one or two dribbles and boom right by the rim. So we have to make it more difficult on him.”
Sunday’s game was made even more special for Aldridge because he is from Dallas and starred at the University of Texas. He always loves playing in his home state, but Sunday night’s game certainly ranked as his favorite game here.
“It was perfect,” he said.
He took the game ball to save as a memento of his great night, but didn’t do anything special to celebrate the feat. He simply had a low-key postgame dinner with some teammates and his mother Georgia, who was one of less than five relatives he invited to attend the game.
“I was so exhausted that I ate with my mom and then I went to sleep,” he said. “She was so excited. She was acting like it was 3 o’clock in the afternoon instead of 2 a.m..”
Aldridge fouled out with about a minute left in overtime on Sunday night and Damian Lillard, who was making his playoff debut, finished it off by scoring five straight points to end with 31. The pair became the first teammates to score at least 45 and 30 points in a game in the playoffs since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen did it in 1992.
Aldridge had some fun after the game, stopping to tease former Trail Blazer and current Rockets’ broadcaster Clyde Drexler about surpassing one of his records. Drexler holds a number of career records for Portland, and Aldridge’s 46 points drops Drexler’s 42 points down to third on the team’s list of top playoff performances.
But Aldridge, who has been with the Trail Blazers his entire career, is more focused on helping the team than on individual accomplishments. The Blazers are in the postseason for the first time since 2011 and they haven’t advanced to the second round since losing in the Western Conference finals in 2000.
“I like winning and I feel like great players are always tied to winning,” he said. “A lot of guys have scored points but only certain guys have won and scored points. If I can win a championship then I think my body of work ... will mean more.”
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