The San Antonio Spurs won Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals on Wednesday, beating the Houston Rockets, 121-96, to salvage a split as the series moves to Houston for Game 3 on Friday.
LaMarcus Aldridge, however, needs to step up – and now. The 31-year-old is averaging 9.5 points and 7.0 rebounds on 38.1 percent shooting from the floor.
What happened to the guy who was a lock for 20 and 10 every night in Portland.
“I’ve been (saying) it for the last two or three years: LaMarcus Aldridge, where are you?” three-time NBA champion Mario Elie said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “You’re a max player. That’s why the spurs brought you here. They need to put an APB on this guy. You’re the second-best player on the team. You got to play like it.”
Aldridge, it seems, has not fully acclimated to San Antonio’s system.
“I thought in Portland they really went to him and (Damian) Lillard,” Elie said. “They were sort of the main guys, but now with the Spurs – I was an ex-Spur – it’s a system-oriented team. You’ve got to get your shots out of the offense. If there’s a mismatch, of course they’re roll with LaMarcus Aldridge down to the box. But as you see the Spurs play, especially with the great Tim Duncan, the ball was always moving side-to-side, guys would always get shots off the offense. LaMarcus is getting some good looks. He needs to knock his shot down. My thing with LaMarcus, he never really gets to the free-throw line. He’s a jump-shooting big. He’s got to sort of mix his game up. You can’t just shoot jumpers all day.”
The winner of Spurs/Rockets will likely face Golden State in the conference finals. The Warrios have not missed a beat without Steve Kerr, but at some point in these playoffs, the Warriors will be challenged – either in a game, or a series, and it will be on Mike Brown to guide this team in the midst of chaos, to bring his players back from the brink of defeat or possible implosion.
That, more than anything, is when the Warriors will miss Kerr.
“Steve has five rings,” Elie said. “Steve’s been a player before. So I think Steve has a better feel for that than Mike Brown,” Elie said. “If Draymond goes off, Steve has the credibility to say, ‘Come, man, relax. Let me sit you down for a quarter.’ Even though Draymond may be over there blowing steam, Steve’s going to get the back of the team also by sitting him on the bench like that.”
Elie won an NBA title with Kerr in San Antonio in 1999. He had nothing but positive things to say about the Warriors head coach.
“Just a great guy,” Elie said. “Great communicator, straight-shooter – he’s going to give it to you straight. He’s not going to sugarcoat it. Just amazing human being. That’s what makes Steve a great coach. He’s a great communicator. I’m glad to see him having the success. I’m sorry to see him not being able to be on the sideline because of that back, but Mike Brown is the perfect fit, a guy who was the head coach before.”
Brown has coached a team to the Finals. Granted, that team had LeBron James, but when in doubt, Brown’s goal should be as follows: do not be a hero.
“You don’t need to catch these guys,” Elie said. “You got Curry, you got Draymond Green, you got Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Those guys have high basketball IQs, they have a system they play in. Them guys are loaded. I think the Rockets are the only team in the West that have a chance to beat the Warriors.”