His first field goal was a beauty, a lob from half-court that he gracefully corralled before using his lanky frame to lay it in with one motion.
It came less than five minutes in.
We should have known then it would be LaMarcus Aldridge's night.
From there, Portland's All-Star power forward and leading scorer tapped into his bag of tricks. In a 111-104 win over the Thunder inside the Moda Center on Dec. 4, Aldridge dropped an OKC opponent-high 38 points, scoring on a flurry of fadeaways and pump fakes, pullups and pick-and-pops.
“He had a pretty good game that game. So hat's off to him,” said Thunder center Kendrick Perkins. “But we're looking forward to playing him (Tuesday) and protecting home court.”
Perkins spoke following his team's practice Monday afternoon with a dash of disdain in his voice, like a man on a mission, a man seeking payback.
And with that as the backdrop, the stage is set for a rematch between the best two teams in the NBA's best conference.
Fans thought so much of the matchup that they voted it as NBA TV's Fan Night Game of the Week.
And rightfully so.
They're division rivals, the Blazers have stunned everyone with their surprising early play and Portland point guard Damian Lillard is enjoying a sensational second act following a Rookie of the Year-winning debut last season.
Oh yeah, we can't forget the Thunder's thirst for retribution.
All that's missing is Russell Westbrook. But his absence this time might provide even more intrigue simply because it offers the best chance yet to see just how good this Thunder bunch is without its brash point guard.
But it's Aldridge's performance in the first meeting that tops the list.
He had 38 points in 37 minutes. He scored 27 in the second half.
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