2013-14 has turned out to be the year of the power forward.
LaMarcus Aldridge. Blake Griffin. Kevin Love. Anthony Davis. Dirk Nowitzki. Each one has their own unique skill set that makes their game stand out from the rest. Only three of them are currently in the playoffs, and two of them have elevated themselves this season into the discussion for top 10 players in the league: LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin.
After his performance on Wednesday night against the Houston Rockets, Aldridge scored the third most points in the first two games of a playoff series in NBA history. The two names who scored more than him? Michael Jordan and Jerry West. Aldridge, averaging 44.5 points and 13.0 rebounds, has been the best player in the series and is the catalyst behind his team’s 2-0 series lead as they head to Portland for Game 3 on Friday night.
In Game 1 of the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors series, Blake Griffin struggled to stay on the floor due to foul trouble, played only 19 minutes and scored only 16 points. The Clippers lost by four. Game 2 was a completely different story, as the Clippers won by a whopping 40 points. Griffin played a near flawless game committing no fouls, scoring 35 points and grabbing six rebounds while only missing just one of his 10 free throw attempts.
Aldridge’s career year
The 28-year-old Aldridge is having a career year and has been the breakout star of these playoffs so far. He averaged 23.1 PPG 11.1 RPG during the regular season, both career highs, and made the All-Star team. Paired with Damian Lillard, he has the Portland Trail Blazers built to make a deep postseason run.
“The whole key (to the series) is just me being dominant on both ends of the floor – no matter what the situation is, no matter how we play,” Aldridge told USA TODAY Sports. “I just have to make sure that I’m dominant on both ends.”
Between Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones and Omer Asik, the Houston Rockets simply do not have an answer for him. Rockets coach Kevin McHale will be forced to double him Friday night, or Aldridge could go off for another 40 point game.
Griffin’s MVP-caliber season
Looking at the big picture, Griffin is likely to finish in the top three for the Most Valuable Player award and arguably should’ve been in the top three for Most Improved Player as well. Against the Miami Heat with Chris Paul injured back in February, Griffin scored a season-high 43 points with 15 rebounds and six assists in what was arguably the most dominant performance of his career.
He averaged 24.1 PPG and 9.5 RPG this year as he refined his post game, improved his jump shot and shot above 70% from the free throw line for the first time in his career. No longer can teams just attempt to foul and send him to the line because he’s hitting more of his free throws. With his athleticism, ability to finish around the rim, ball handling skills and his strength on the interior, Griffin has taken his game to new heights.