In 37 dominant minutes, LaMarcus Aldridge torched the Thunder front line, compiling 38 points, 13 rebounds and five assists — only one less than the Thunder's entire starting lineup.
“An All-Star having an All-Star night,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “He made 17 field goals, all were well-contested. But when you're hot like he was tonight, (it doesn't) matter what you do.”
And the Thunder did try a few different tactics on Aldridge, going small for a portion of the fourth quarter, before scrapping the idea when he continually took advantage of Serge Ibaka. Brooks reinserted Kendrick Perkins in the final minutes — a rare thing these days, which tells you plenty about Aldridge's impact — to guard the Blazers' big man.
But it didn't matter.
“He was shooting turnarounds from almost the three-point line on top of our bigs,” Kevin Durant said. “He was knocking them down and that's what great players do … It looked like it was great defense on our part, but better offense.”
On this night, in this building, where Portland is now 8-1, Aldridge was just too much. And so were the Blazers, who are rapidly becoming a national media darling.
There's no telling if it will continue, but for now it seems clear that the Blazers have at least entered the convoluted conversation.
“There's a handful of teams,” Brooks said. “It's the West, they're all top teams. You're not going to have an easy game … But they're a good team.”