The Houston Rockets had success against the Portland Trail Blazers this year, winning the season series 3-1. But we all know the regular season and the playoffs are two different animals.
One thing that the Rockets will need to work on for their upcoming series with the Blazers is defending MVP candidate LaMarcus Aldridge. L.A. feasted on Houston’s front line this season, posting an absurd 26.8 points and 15.5 rebounds.
Slowing down Aldridge in the playoffs is going to become the responsibility of one Terrence Jones. Yes, yes he will have and will need help. But Jones will be the primary man matched up with Portland’s All-Star. Fun times ahead.
Jones wasn’t much of factor in any of the games versus the Blazers this past season at just four points and two rebounds per game in just 16.6 minutes. Those are the numbers which in this case tell a small lie as Jones wasn’t a large part of the Houston rotation when the teams first met in November. He played just 61 seconds in that affair and only played in three of the four total games.
The truth of the matter here is Jones is not who he was at the beginning of the season. That’s very much a good thing for Houston and a minor point of concern for Portland. Jones is now the starting power forward and has gained the necessary confidence (Houston hopes) to attack Aldridge at both ends.
OK, maybe “attack” is a bit strong, but he’s got to be a stretch 4 making enough shots to keep Aldridge honest and hopefully off the glass defensively. Jones can hit the occasional 3, knocking down 30 percent of such attempts. He also has some decent driving ability using one or two dribbles to get to the rim. If he’s able to mix up his offensive attack (there’s that word again) to keep Aldridge busy on both sides, Houston will be in much better position to win and maybe end the series quickly.
The former Kentucky product has a distinct size disadvantage in defending Aldridge whose offensive game is amongst the most difficult to defend especially with a Mount Everest-high release. Jones will need to keep a hand in the face of Aldridge on jumpers and maybe get help from Dwight Howard to double from the weak side on post-ups. Doubling with any of the wing defenders leaves a very capable 3-point marksman open for Portland so Houston is limited to Howard to give legitimate help.
Of course Jones could be left on an island and the Rockets could elect to let Aldridge get his while limiting everybody else. As long as Jones doesn’t get discouraged by giving up buckets and remains aggressive on offense the Rockets will be in good shape come series end.