How Can the Rockets Stop LaMarcus Aldridge?
I think it's pretty obvious that the answer to stopping LaMarcus Aldridge certainly isn't Terrence Jones. While he has been very serviceable at times this year for the Rockets, Jones cannot match up defensively against Aldridge. At all.
If you missed it, Aldridge went off for 46 points and 18 rebounds in Game 1 on Sunday night, shooting above 50% from the field during the process. If you combine that with Damian Lillard dropping 31 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists, it's obvious that the Rockets need to figure some things out.
The answer for Lillard is Patrick Beverley, who will hopefully be able to be back at 100% after his MRI revealed no further damage to his knee. The numbers between Lillard and Beverley this year favored the latter pretty significantly, so I'm less worried about Lillard than I am about Aldridge. He'll regress back to the mean.
Aldridge, on the other hand, has shown in every game this year against the Rockets - that number is now at five - that they simply can't stop him. He presents a unique difficulty to the Rockets - Jones obviously can't guard him, but they want to keep Dwight Howard close to the basket to protect the rim. Aldridge's game is away from the basket - exactly where Dwight doesn't want to be.
As mentioned above, it's not like this Jones versus Aldridge matchup is a new development. During the four games that the Rockets played against the Blazers, the Rockets' starting five - Beverley, Harden, Parsons, Jones, and Howard - played 35 minutes. During that time, that lineup posted an awful -42.5 NetRtg (points scored per 100 possessions - points allowed per 100 possessions) against the Blazers. Clearly, this is not working.
So, what does work? What is the correct formula to beat these Blazers and the specific matchup problems that they pose? Let's look at what kind of lineups (with a 20 minute minimum) did well against them this year and see what sort of options the Rockets have.
|Hill, Granger, George, West, Hibbert (IND)||29||+34.6|
|Wall, Beal, Ariza, Gortat, Nene (WAS)||22||+19.4|
|Jackson, Sefolosha, Durant, Ibaka, Perkins (OKC)||65||+12.1|
|Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Lee, Bogut (GSW)||55||+9.8|
|Conley, Lee, Prince, Randolph, Gasol (MEM)||55||+7.2|
The common trait between the lineups above? They all include two traditional bigs. Many of the "small ball" lineups against the Blazers this year weren't even slightly successful, as seen by the -42.5 NetRtg that the Rockets starting five boasts.
Perhaps you can see where I'm going with this: Omer Asik!
Against the Blazers this season, the lineup of Beverley, Harden, Parsons, Howard, and Asik was only given 11 minutes of run. However, during that time, they had a NetRtg of +24.7. I know it's a small sample size, but doesn't it at least deserve a shot?
During the regular season, I know that the statistics don't back up that lineup as a successful one. The lineups that included both Howard and Asik at the same time posted 99.2 minutes and had an average NetRtg of about -20.
However, many of those minutes were at the beginning of the season, in the midst of the Asik trade drama and Howard getting settled into a new team. To completely abandon playing your best two big men at the same time because of early season statistics is silly and could really hurt the Rockets in this series.
Even if McHale won't play Asik more - he only played 12 minutes in Game 1 - he should at least give some minutes to Motiejunas and Casspi. Although it's only been in limited minutes, the lineups with those players in the place of Jones against the Blazers have been successful this year. With Motiejunas, the Rockets had a +42.4 NetRtg in 12 minutes and had a +42.3 rating in about the same amount of time with Casspi.
I know in the playoffs you want to tighten up your rotation. I get it. But McHale should at least think about cutting back Jones' minutes (he played 36 on Sunday) in favor of Asik or the other two guys mentioned above.
If the rotation and minute distribution stays the same, look for another monster game from Aldridge in Game 2. Maybe he'll go for 50 this time?