Posted Apr 29 2010 8:50AM
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Indecision may or may not be LaMarcus Aldridge's biggest problem.
"I have to stay patient," he said. "But I have to be quicker."
There are the two sometimes-confused faces of the Trail Blazers, who've been hammered three times already by the Suns, yet are only one win on their home floor from forcing an all-or-nothing seventh game.
With All-Star guard Brandon Roy back on the floor and back in the starting lineup, there are no likely more rabbits that the Blazers can pull out of their hat. That is, unless you count the trick of getting their 6-foot-11 forward to come up big.
In Portland's two wins in the series, Aldridge has averaged 26.5 points, shot 19-for-39 (48.5 percent) from the field, grabbed seven rebounds and shot 10 free throws per game.
In the Blazers' three losses, he has averaged 15 points, shot 16-for-37 (41.1 percent), grabbed 4.3 rebounds and shot 5.3 free throws per game. He did not shoot a single free throw in the 107-88 wipeout that was Game 5.
"I don't think everything about the success or failure of what we do is about me," Aldridge said. "But I know I have to do more."
Aldridge might as well be a bunion on an old man's foot for the way you can forecast the weather around the Blazers according to how he's feeling and playing. When he's aggressively looking for his shot or making quick, decisive moves to find an open teammate, he's been more than even the double-teaming defense of the Suns can handle. But when he is the slightest bit passive, when he hesitates and you can almost see the wheels turning inside his head as he ponders what to do, Phoenix has been able to frustrate Aldridge and the entire Blazers offense.
"Sometimes they double-team him and we maybe look to go other ways instead of trying to force it into him and playing out of that double-team," said Roy, who spent the first three games strictly as a spectator and the last two coming off the bench. "Anytime a team commits two to one guy, you've got advantages on the weak side. I think you've got to stick with it, even if it is a little dull and boring. I think that's our advantage in this series. We've got to keep pounding it into him and hopefully he makes some plays and can try to play off of him."
Nothing that Aldridge has seen in this series is different from what's come his way during the regular season, even when Roy missed 15 games due to a hamstring injury. Coach Nate McMillan applauded Aldridge for stepping up his level of play, taking on the mantle of leadership and demonstrating consistency over the final months.
Yet the big man has bobbed up and down like a cork on the waves through the series as the Suns have given him more different looks with additional defenders constantly keeping the pressure on him.
"I know they're there or I know they're coming and I know what I have have to do," Aldridge said. "I've just got to do it more."
Aldridge only half-jokingly noted that he got his first completely wide-open look at the basket a few seconds after Roy checked into the series eight minutes into Game 4. With Roy back in the starting lineup for Game 6, the assumption is that the Phoenix defense won't be able to be as relentless in building a wall around Aldridge.
"Of course, [we'll] have more options," Aldridge said. "He's Brandon, so he's gonna bring offense. He's gonna bring things that we didn't feel before.
"He just takes some of that pressure off. They can't double-team as much. They can't load up as much. They have to guard him and myself, so they can't try to focus on me as much.
"As of now, I still have it on me, because Brandon hasn't found his rhythm yet. But when he finds his rhythm, it's gonna be better because we're gonna have two or three options that can post up, actually score. It's gonna be big for us."
Back in October, the Blazers signed Aldridge to a new five-year contract worth $70 million to be a key cog with Roy and not merely a complementary piece of the puzzle. As this trying season filled with injuries has kept stretching their limits, the Blazers have needed Aldridge to step into that role. Never more than now. Yet he remains confident.
"Because we've beaten this team," he said. "We're not down three to nothing or 3-1. We're down 3-2 ... So I feel like if we come out and take care of our business, we should be OK.
"We're not looking at a Game 7. This is a one-game season for us. We're just going into Game 6 trying to do everything we can to win."
Aldridge nodded his head.
"For me, this is an opportunity," he said. "As long as I don't try to do too much."
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