Before going too far into this, I have to admit that sometimes, when you've thought about something long enough, you start seeing it everywhere. Bought a new Acura? Suddenly every third car is an Integra. Grandfather died? Suddenly you're seeing him at supermarkets and bank lobbies.
But I think there's some data to be found to support the theory that Aldridge is not good -- not good AT ALL -- when it comes to late-game pressure free throws. And it's hurting the team now. Worse, it's going to hurt the team later if they get to a point where they're contending. Sure, they lost in the middle of a losing season on the road to a team without its best player... but how's it gonna look when Aldridge steps up with the Blazers down 2 in game 3 in the second round and rattles one, or both, in and out? Not too good.
I also wanted to bring attention to something I've written about before: the Blazers, and Damian Lillard in particular, to his detriment -- seem not to understand how much time is left when there is an end-of-quarter or late-game situation.
What happened going into halftime could very well have changed the outcome of the game. And what Lillard did with 16 seconds left in regulation (dribble at the top of the key for far, far too long without doing much of anything) also could have made a difference. As I mentioned, I wrote about this problem earlier, and even included a poll. In that case, the question stuck strictly to what happened at end-of-quarter situations, not necessarily how to manage time when you're down and the clock is your enemy. But the two go hand-in-hand, and those aren't the type of mistakes that good teams make.
For the second problem, I'm not as worried. Lillard will grow. Will clock management be one of those ways in which he improves without much recognition? Almost certainly.
Aldridge's free-throw problems are more worrisome. When you step to the line, regardless of where you are, what the crowd's doing, what the score is, or how poorly you've shot, it's the same routine every time. The same distance to the hoop. The same sized ball. The same motion. Every. Single. Time. And truly great free throw shooters understand that walking to the stripe is akin to hitting a reset button. Aldridge is clearly taking his mantal baggage, whatever it may be, with him when he shoots late-game free throws, and it needs to stop. This isn't so much a case for a shooting coach as it is for a psychologist. And the faster her can recognize he has a problem with it, the sooner he can go to equalizing his late-game percentage with his overall free throw shooting, which is better than just good.
That's all I wanted to say. I appreciate your reading. A frustrating loss tonight in what should have been a win, and a couple of things I wanted to point out. All done!