Aldridge, Lillard Come Up Huge, Blazers Take Game 1 in Houston

Remember that old saying, “experience plays a huge factor”? It did not come into play last night, not one bit. The 2014 playoffs have gotten off to a roaring start and out of all the first round series out there, this one might be the most entertaining. Houston and Portland both finished their 2013-14 campaigns with a record of 54-28, with Houston earning the tie-breaker and home court advantage. Game 1 was an instant classic, with Portland rallying from a 10 point deficit with six minutes to play, as well as a six point deficit in overtime, to steal a 1-0 lead in this best-of-seven series. The two most lasting images from last night: LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard.

The game began fast paced as usual, staying close throughout the first half, until the Rockets got hot in the third and seemed as if they were about to pull away. James Harden was pulling up in transition and the fans were going crazy, but it’s not over, until the buzzer sounds, and Houston forgot that. LaMarcus Aldridge played the best game of his career, scoring a career high/franchise playoff record 46 points(22 in the 4th quarter/OT), on 17-for-31 shooting, also going 2-for-2 from beyond the arc(wow). He also grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked two shots, and scored the tip-in that wound up sending the game to overtime. He would go on to foul out, but no doubt his impact was felt. Second year player Damian Lillard was equally impressive with 31 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and only 1 turnover, including the game tying 3 pointer with under 30 seconds remaining. After Aldridge fouled out in overtime, Lillard was the man Portland relied on down the stretch and did he ever come through. He scored 5 points in the final minute of OT, including an and-one and calmly sinking two pressure free throws. This was the first time a duo of players had scored 45 and 30 respectively, since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen accomplished the feat in 1992, over 20 years ago.

On the flip side, James Harden had a very sub-par game to his standards. He wound up with 27 points, but he ended up taking one more shot(28) than points he scored. Overall Harden was 8-for-28 on field goals(28%). Dwight Howard’s numbers may hide the fact he was not effective down the stretch, where Portland began to hack-a-Dwight, and to their delight, it paid off. Howard finished with 27 points and 15 boards, but messed a lot of potentially big plays up in the 4th quarter(to his credit, he was 4-for-5 from the free throw line in OT). Howard was hit with a questionable sixth foul later on, but he had a pretty solid night in some areas.

It’s not time to panic in Houston, nor is it time to celebrate in Portland. Both of these teams are equally capable of winning this series, and both have dynamic duos they can rely on down the stretch. Overall, Portland came out blazing and the Rockets ended up failing to launch down the stretch. The only thing the Rockets can not afford to do, is to lose Game 2 and head to the northwest down 0-2. Game 2 will be in Houston on Wednesday at 9:30 ET on TNT.

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