HOUSTON (CBS Houston): At the time, it seemed like the most boneheaded play LaMarcus Aldridge could make. In hindsight, it could be Machiavellian brilliance.
With 1:05 left in overtime, with the game tied at 116, the Blazers were pushing the ball up the court. Mo Williams had the ball on the far sidelines (opposite the benches), and was heading upcourt. Aldridge was near midcourt, by the circle, when he turned around to see Damian Lillard being guarded tightly by Rockets guard Patrick Beverley all the way up the court. Lillard and Beverley were behind the play, near the middle of the court, when Aldridge got the worst idea he had all night.
Aldridge, who had thoroughly dominated all night, with 46 points on 17-31 shooting and 18 rebounds including 7 on the offensive glass, decided now would be the best time to take a shot at Beverley. He stopped heading upcourt, turned around, pointed out Beverley to Lillard, and then essentially took a run at Patrick Beverley. It was essentially a moving pick on a guy who was guarding someone who didn’t have the ball, and wasn’t trying to get the ball.
Just in case you need a reminder: Beverley Injury Video From NBA.com
It’s clear Aldridge was taking a pot shot at Beverley. Not that these kind of things don’t go on all the time, but put it through the context of the game.
You are LaMarcus Aldridge. There’s 1:05 to go in overtime. Game is tied. You have a chance to steal game 1 on the road. You have been completely unstoppable all game long. You have 5 fouls.
This is absolutely not the time to be thinking about doing ANYTHING to jeopardize your ability to stay on the court, let alone take a pot shot at a guy half your size on the wrong side of midcourt when your team has possession with a chance to take the lead.
Aldridge should have been getting himself in position to get the ball on the far blocks, where he had been taking people’s lunch money all night, to get the go-ahead bucket. Instead, he body-checked Beverley to the court, and picked up his 6th foul.
It was as brainless a play as Aldridge could have made, especially considering time and place.
After the collision, however, something unexpected happened. Beverley, who calls himself Wolverine for his ability to heal quickly, had gone down hard and was slow to get up. He was clearly favoring his knee, the same one that he suffered a torn meniscus in back in late March.
After trying to shake off the effects of the blow from Aldridge, Beverley stayed in the game, though he would foul out shortly thereafter. Beverley had to be helped to the locker room as he struggled with his knee.
Beverley is not just one of the best straight-up perimeter defenders in the league, he’s also the only perimeter defender the Rockets have. He is the only player on the Rockets who can guard Damian Lillard, who scored 17 of his 31 points in the 4th quarter and OT. Not having Beverley to guard Lillard is basically setting Lillard free to do whatever he wants.
It’s an immense matchup problem that, without Beverley, the Rockets have absolutely no answer for. In the playoffs, everything is about matchups.
The Rockets will find out Monday if Beverley is going to be out and for how long, but judging by Beverley needing help to leave the court last night, and his existing injury, chances of his being ready for Wednesday’s Game 2 are very slim.
Beverley missing time in this series could swing favor to the Blazers in significant fashion.
I don’t believe Aldridge was intentionally trying to injure Beverley, but I do think he was taking a shot at him.
As Machiavelli wrote, “If an injury has to be done to a man, it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.” If Beverley misses the rest of the series, the Blazers likely won’t need to worry about the Rockets again until next season.
Patrick Creighton is the host of “Nate & Creight”, with Nate Griffin, Sundays 2-5p on Sportsradio 610. Follow him on Twitter: @PCreighton1