10 February 2010
When Portland hosted Oklahoma City on Tuesday night at the Rose Garden, the marquee match-up was billed Nicolas Batum against Kevin Durant.
But the battle between power forwards LaMarcus Aldridge and Jeff Green (note the Sonics flashback pic) was really worth breaking down. One guy prefers the face-up game (Aldridge). The other, at 6’9, has fallen in love with the three-point line (Green has 193 attempts this season).
Don’t let the final numbers fool you though. They don’t tell the real story between Aldridge versus Green:
Give Thunder’s head coach Scotty Brooks and his staff credit. They devised a strong defensive game plan for Green to frustrate Aldridge by fronting him and it worked from start to finish. With Green guarding in front, Andre Miller had difficulties getting Aldridge involved early. It resulted in LaMarcus going 0-3 from the field in the first quarter.
As for Green, after missing his first shot – a three pointer nonetheless – he scored in the low post with ease on a jump hook over Miller and by putting the ball on the floor and flashing across the lane against Aldridge with a (sloppy) left handed flip shot. But Green’s fronting defense was enough to disrupt Aldridge and the Blazers offense. Green was extremely active. Aldridge was extremely off. He managed to move the ball well with a nice pass to a cutting Dante Cunningham and by keeping the ball alive for Nicolas Batum’s dunk.
By the end of the quarter, Cunningham switched to guard Green – who checked out with seconds left in the quarter - with Aldridge picking up Nick Collison.
Trailing 23-17 to begin the second quarter, Portland desperately needed to get Aldridge involved on the offensive end. It took a little time but it finally happened.
Starting the quarter on the bench, Green checked back in with two minutes into the second quarter as Aldridge sat. When Aldridge returned with about 9 minutes left, Green kept guarding Cunningham before Jeff took advantage of Jerryd Bayless on a switch with a two-handed dunk.
Minutes later, Aldridge and Green went head to head again with Green continuing to front Aldridge.
At this point in the game, LaMarcus had only taken four shots before going to the line and hitting two free-throws with roughly 7 minutes left before the half. That apparently was the quick spark he needed to get going – if you can call it that. At 5:47, Aldridge finally got his first field goal of the game, running the floor after grabbing a rebound on the defensive end. Less than a minute later, Miller connected with LaMarcus on a lob dunk. As Green missed another three-pointer, he also got out and ran the floor blocking Miller’s shot minutes before halftime.
First Half Stats: Green - 13 points and 2 rebounds; Aldridge - 9 points and 6 rebounds
Leave it to Nate McMillan to switch up a starting five he’d already changed before the game with Batum starting at small forward. Coming out of the half, Martell Webster started the third quarter and he quickly picked up Green.
Once Green and Aldridge matched-up again minutes later, Green stayed with what was working by fronting Aldridge. But as the rest of the game unfolded, the Green versus Aldridge dance that dominated the first half began drifting from each player switching off one another frequently. Aldridge got his looks at Nenad Krstic and Serge Ibaka. Green battled Cunningham and Batum.
But Aldridge and Green certainly manned-up against one another at times in the third. Green once again took Aldridge off the dribble to the middle of the lane for a running hook shot. Minutes later, Aldridge got inside and scored on Green – with the foul. Aldridge would go on to miss the free-throw.
Finally late in the third, Portland made an adjustment with Aldridge. He was able to pin Green on his back and the Blazers ran a play for Aldridge in the post. Although LaMarcus passed out of single coverage without even bothering to flash a low post move, Portland was able to swing the ball that led to a Juwan Howard layup.
The next trip down, Green fronted Aldridge again and the Blazers went high-low with Howard lobbing from the top of the key to Aldridge in the post for a dunk. Aldridge then proceeded to hit a face-up jumper on the next play.
It was by far his best offensive stretch of the game.
Oklahoma City started the first quarter strong, and did the same in the fourth with the Thunder opening on a 10-2 run.
As Aldridge watched from the bench to begin the quarter, Green got off another wild running scoop shot – this time going left for a layup. Once Aldridge re-entered, the Green/Aldridge match-up was pretty much over. Aldridge drew a charge against Collison, as Green picked up Batum on defense. On the offensive end, Green fell in love with the three-point line missing on attempt, after attempt, after attempt. Green ended the night going 1-6 from beyond the arc.
Still, it was his defense in the first half that allowed the Thunder to harness LaMarcus Aldridge. Even though Aldridge finished with double-double, a different stat line jumps out for Portland.
Thanks to Green, Aldridge only took 10 shots the entire game.
Final Stats: Green – 17 points, 3 rebounds and 4 steals; Aldridge – 15 points, 15 rebounds and 4 steals
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