HOUSTON – The Portland TrailBlazers (2-1) bounced back nicely from a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night en route to a 95-85 win on the road over the Houston Rockets (2-1).
Rookie point guard Damian Lillard has been as good as advertised with another 20+ point performance, and was one assist away from another double-down. Lillard finished the game with 20 points, nine assists, and six rebounds to just three turnovers.
The star of the game, however, was big man LaMarcus Aldridge who put up a a game-high and season-high 27 points while also collecting 11 rebounds and six assists.
“(Aldridge) had it rolling, he was dominating the game offensively, and I just wanted to make sure I was in the position to knock the shots down,” Lillard said after the game. “(Aldridge) got going and I was able to get easier shots.”
All of the Blazers’ starters scored in double-digits expect for center J.J. Hickson who finished with nine points and 12 rebounds.
While it is still early in the season, buzz in the state of Oregon has to be about how much potential there is in Portland. The Blazers are in a six-way tie for third place, but have played three more than likely title contenders in the Lakers, Thunder and now the Rockets. In their three performances, Portland has played elite level basketball with the exception being a poor second half against Oklahoma City.
Is it too early to start looking at the Blazers as being the NBA’s Cinderella team? Probably. But heck, let’s do it anyways.
Portland’s difficult opening schedule will show fans, analysts players and coaches just where this Blazers teams stands in the big picture of the NBA. The Blazers’ next three opponents (Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs) have a combined 7-2 record and are three of the NBA’s elite franchises over the last three seasons.
If Lillard, Aldridge and the rest of the Blazers can continue to dominate, then it will be time start buying into the Terry Stott’s regime. Portland has already shown signs of rejuvenation since the departure of coach Nate McMillan. The Blazers are utilizing all-star forward Aldridge’s ability to work with a competent point guard, something that has been missing since Brandon Roy.
It’s not necessarily the fault of McMillan that Portland was unable to give Aldridge a star guard for the past few seasons. When nearly 20 million of your salary has no knees, you’re put in a crappy situation. Portland was unable to snag a star guard with the caliber of a Derron Williams or Chris Paul in free agency, but at least it appears they’ve now found their man for the future.
If Lillard can bring the spark that left the Rose Garden with Roy, this team could turn a few heads before this season is all said and done. With the collapse of last season, having a little hope is all Blazers fans can lean on. While this may be something magical, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There are another 79 games on the schedule that mean a lot. But pay especially close attention over the next week. Big things are in the works in the Rose City.