PORTLAND — Thursday evening, the final All-Star balloting returns came in and it was what many expected.
Despite his excellence and the success of his team this season, Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge was not voted into the game as a starter.
So what he did do in response?
He set a career-high of 44 points to go along with 13 rebounds, five assists and two blocks to lead the Blazers to a 110-105 win over the Denver Nuggets at the Moda Center on national television.
“He was luminescent, he was magnificent. He was inspired, I don’t even know what else to say,” said Blazers center Robin Lopez on his front court mate’s performance.
The Blazers defense had been slipping in the last few games and overall, they haven’t been great in the last 13 games coming in, going 7-6.
For much of Thursday night’s TNT-televised affair, it was deja vu.
Before the game Aldridge was asked about his feelings regarding not making it in and declined to comment. He let his play do the talking.
“He played both sides of the floor so well and it’s easy to compliment that,” said Lopez, who had eight offensive rebounds. Something Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said really hurt Denver.
The Blazers struggled to create friction on Denver’s drives and also struggled defending the three-point line.
Aldridge and Wesley Matthews, who scored 24 points, carried the offensive load for much of the night with each player putting together solid performances from the field.
However, Portland continued to struggle containing anything that the Nuggets wanted to do. Everybody was involved offensively for the Nuggets with no player taking more than 12 shots.
It was a team effort by the Nuggets to attack the Blazers’s biggest weakness.
The Blazers trailed by as much as 15, prompting the Moda Center faithful to rally the troops.
Aldridge kept attacking in the second half, where he scored 30 of his 44 points. However, the rest of the Blazers didn’t follow suit until later.
The Blazers made their fair share of rallies in the second and third quarter but had never wrestled control away from the Nuggets.
A bench-heavy unit of Mo Williams, Thomas Robinson, CJ McCollum, Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez helped wrestle the lead back while Portland’s three best players sat.
It set the stage for the Blazers’ starters to come back in and win the game in the fourth. It also set the stage for Aldridge to take over late.
Nicolas Batum continued to play facilitator for the Blazers but was very efficient in creating chances for his teammates.
Batum dished 10 assists while committing only two turnovers on the night.
Blazers coach Terry Stotts said that the splint he wore on his left hand tonight wasn’t as bulky as the one he wore against Oklahoma City after breaking his first one against Houston on Monday.
Once again, the complete package was on display from Portland’s MVP. It may get old and tired to some but he continues to play on another level.
His recent stretch of play hasn’t been seen in the NBA in quite some time. In fact, he’s the first player since Hakeem Olajuwon in 1993 to have six straight games of more than 26 points and 12 rebounds.
“He’s tough. He’s been having these types of nights against everybody,” said Shaw.
Aldridge was solid from the field, going 15-for-29 but needed to win this game at the line. He went 11-for-14 from the line in the fourth quarter to help seal the win that was anything but easy.