Portland Trail Blazers v Houston Rockets - Game Two

Can LaMarcus Aldridge break the all-time single-playoff scoring record?

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LaMarcus Aldridge has scored and 46 and 43 points in two playoff games. To be Captain Obvious, that’s a lot.

In fact, his 44.5 points per game would break break the all-time single-playoff scoring record:

1. 44.5, LaMarcus Aldridge (2014 Portland Trail Blazers)

2. 43.7, Michael Jordan (1986 Chicago Bulls)

3. 40.6, Jerry West (1965 Los Angeles Lakers)

4. 38.6, Elgin Baylor (1962 Los Angeles Lakers)

5. 38.1, Elgin Baylor (1961 Los Angeles Lakers)

6. 37.5, Hakeem Olajuwon (1988 Houston Rockets)

7. 37.4, Bob McAdoo (1975 Buffalo Braves)

8. 37.0, Wilt Chamberlain (1961 Philadelphia Warriors)

9. 36.7, Michael Jordan (1990 Chicago Bulls)

10. 36.3, Michael Jordan (1988 Chicago Bulls)

11. 35.7, Michael Jordan (1987 Chicago Bulls)

12. 35.3, LeBron James (2009 Cleveland Cavaliers)

13. 35.2, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1970 Milwaukee Bucks)

14. 35.1, Michael Jordan (1993 Chicago Bulls)

15. 35.0, Wilt Chamberlain (1962 Philadelphia Warriors)

Can Aldridge keep his place atop that list?

The easiest way to do so would be losing to the Rockets. Maintaining such a high scoring average is much more difficult over a larger sample. Jordan’s 43.7  came in a three-game sweep at the hands of the Celtics. In fact, six of the instances on the above list (including Aldridge) came from teams that didn’t advance past the first round.

At minimum, Aldridge must pad his numbers against Houston before advancing. The Rockets’ inability to double-team him in space has left him plenty of good looks – at least by his standards – from mid-range. This is a good matchup for him.

The next round, due to regression to the mean alone, will likely be tougher. Plus, the Spurs or Mavericks will have more time to scout him and find ways to limit his effectiveness.

Aldridge had similar regular-season scoring numbers against Dallas and Houston (a little more per game against Houston, a little more per minute against Dallas), and the Mavericks’ defensive reputation suggests an easier time. However, he shot 56 percent against San Antonio in the regular season – by far his best mark against a Western Conference playoff team.

But, if the Trail Blazers advance, Terry Stotts won’t gameplan for the next series with the primary goal of preserving Aldridge’s scoring average. I doubt Aldridge would be particularly concerned it, either.

Besides, a regression is almost assured. Here are the seven times a player has scored at least 80 points in the first two games of the playoffs. Notice how everyone’s scoring average tumbles? It’s just too difficult to maintain such production in the long run.

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It’s for these reasons the all-time single-playoff scoring record is only barely within Aldridge’s reach despite him holding the mark currently. If he hangs on, there’s a solid chance something went wrong with Portland’s playoff run.

However, Aldridge is in much better shape to break the Trail Blazers record – 28.3 by Billy Ray Bates in a 1981 three-game sweep at the hands of the Kansas City Kings.

Here’s how many points per game Aldridge would need to average in Portland’s remaining playoff games, a number that ranges from four to 26, to tie the record:

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Claiming the NBA record would be a tremendous accomplishment, and it’s incredible Aldridge has even put himself in the discussion. He’s a very good player who has elevated his game when it matters most.

But breaking the Trail Blazers record and not the league record is much more likely with a long Portland playoff run, and isn’t that what matters most?

Three Things We Learned Wednesday: Kevin Durant saves his best games for Thunder

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 18:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors dribbles past Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder at ORACLE Arena on January 18, 2017 in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Here are the big takeaways from a busy night around the NBA:

1) Kevin Durant saves his best games for going against Thunder. Kevin Durant’s highest-scoring game this season was 39 points, something he broke out the first time his new Warriors team faced his old Thunder squad. That changed Wednesday night when Durant scored an incredibly efficient 40 points on 16 shots — again against the Thunder. Just in case there wasn’t enough salt rubbed in that OKC wound.

Whatever you think of his choice, Kevin Durant’s team is way better than Russell Westbrook‘s. Which we expected and was part of the reason Durant made the move — he is closer to a ring now than he was before. Part of that is obviously what Durant brings to their offense — and how efficiently he’s been doing it this season, with a true shooting percentage of 65.9, his career best (for some perspective, the league average is around 52). But he’s also been bringing it on the defensive end this season, particularly of late, having a strong game against LeBron James Monday then doing well when switched onto Westbrook a couple of times in this game.

Westbrook himself had a triple-double (that’s 21 this season) in the loss… actually, it was a quadruple-double when you throw in the 10 turnovers. Westbrook wasn’t efficient, hitting 8-of-23 from the field, and when he isn’t this team struggles to win, they rely on him that much. Of course, that’s not the play everyone is talking about — it’s Zaza Pachulia with the hard foul, and then taunting Westbrook by standing over him.

When Westbrook saw that, he promised to “get his ass back.” These teams meet again in March — when Durant returns to Oklahoma City for the first time in a Warriors’ uniform.

Bonus thing we saw: Russell Westbrook had the travel of the year (and Kemba Walker tried to top him).
Even in the NBA, this is a travel — and a funny one.

Earlier in the night, Kemba Walker got away with one almost as bad.

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2) The Sixers beat the Raptors and have now won 7-of-9.
When the run of wins from the Sixers started, it was easy to say “they are just beating other weak teams.” Then they beat the Bucks. Thursday night they beat the Raptors. Brett Brown has settled on a 10-man rotation, found lineups he likes with Joel Embiid starting (surrounded by shooters) and Nerlens Noel relieving him off the bench. Plus, the Sixers are finding their defensive identity.

Still, this all comes back to Embiid — the Sixers are outscoring teams by 3.5 points per 100 possessions when he is on the court this season. He had 26 points — including 12-of-14 from the free throw line — plus nine rebounds against Toronto.


3) Rudy Gay is out for the season, which changes West playoff chase and trade picture.
This is bad news for the Kings, it is worse news for Rudy Gay himself — trying to drive out of the right corner Wednesday night Rudy Gay tore his left Achilles tendon (something the team announced, although it needs to be confirmed by an MRI Thursday).

Gay is done for this season and likely the start of the next one.

In the short term, that is a blow to the Kings’ playoff chances. Technically they are just 1.5 games out of the eight seed after Wednesday’s loss to the Pacers, but the Kings have been outscored by 10 points per 100 possessions this season when Gay is on the bench, and now he is on the bench for the season. He has scored 18.7 points per game, which was second-best on the team, and now that role falls to Matt Barnes and Omri Casspi (once Casspi returns from his calf injury in a couple of weeks). Those two are a drop off from what Gay brought to the Kings, don’t be surprised if Sacramento tries to add a scorer at the trade deadline.

It also changes the trade deadline. Gay was clear he wanted out of Sacramento and said he planned to opt out of the $14.3 million final year of his contract to be a free agent next summer, which made him someone on the trade block teams were calling about (although the Kings being in the playoff hunt impacted what the Kings might do). Now obviously that is off the table, and the question becomes will Gay even opt out?

Kings’ Rudy Gay suffers apparent torn left Achilles tendon, would be done for season

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This not only changes the Kings dreams of making the playoffs in the West, it also alters the trade deadline and free agency.

Rudy Gay, the Kings wing and second-leading scorer, has been diagnosed with a torn left Achilles tendon, according to the team. During the third quarter of Wednesday night’s game against the Pacers, Gay drove out of the right corner and, untouched, fell to the floor hard. He had to be helped off the court by teammates.

Team doctors made the initial torn Achilles diagnosis, which will need to be confirmed by an MRI scheduled for Thursday. He would be out not only for this season but likely the start of the next one as well.

Without Gay, a lot more will fall on Matt Barnes and, once he returns from his calf injury in a couple of weeks, Omri Casspi. Those two are a drop off from what Gay brought to the Kings — this season the team gets outscored by 10 points per 100 possessions when he is off the court — and with that team’s playoff chances have taken a hit (they are 1.5 games out of the eight seed after Wednesday’s loss to the Pacers). Don’t be surprised if the Kings look to add a scorer at the trade deadline.

Gay was not happy in Sacramento and said he planned to opt out of the $14.3 million final year of his contract to be a free agent next summer, which made him someone potentially traded before the deadline (although the Kings being in the playoff hunt impacted that). Gay averaged 18.7 points and 6.4 rebounds a game for the Kings, and while his game was a little old school — more isolation and midrange shots than teams prefer — he put up points. Enough that he was drawing trade interest heading toward the deadline from Oklahoma City and other squads.

That is all off the table now. At age 30, if Gay does still opt out of his contract for next season this will impact what he would make on the free market.

Zaza Pachulia lays out Russell Westbrook, stands over him (video)

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Kevin Durant playing the Thunder invites extra emotions.

Russell Westbrook felt them – in the form of a flagrant foul by Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who stood over Westbrook for emphasis.

Pachulia is really embracing his role doing the dirty work for star-studded Golden State.

Report: 76ers’ Ben Simmons sitting entire season still on table

TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK - AUGUST 07:  Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers poses for a portrait during the 2016 NBA Rookie Photoshoot at Madison Square Garden Training Center on August 7, 2016 in Tarrytown, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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That rumor No. 1 pick Ben Simmons won’t play this season?

It just won’t die.

Even after Simmons tried to quash it, even after the 76ers’ CEO outright denied it, even after Simmons returned to practice, even in an otherwise optimistic report.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

76ers rookie forward Ben Simmons could make his much-anticipated NBA debut shortly after the All-Star break, league sources told ESPN.

Barring a setback in his recovery, sources say the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft has a chance to take the hardwood near March. There still remains the possibility Simmons sits the entire season, sources said, but his situation will continue to be thoroughly evaluated throughout his comeback quest.

76ers coach Brett Brown said there’s “no chance” Simmons plays in Philadelphia’s nationally televised game against the Rockets next week. Other than that, there isn’t much clarity.

It mostly sounds as if Simmons is still too far from returning to say something definitive.