LaMarcus Aldridge is steadily getting to where he — and Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan — believe he can be.
PORTLAND — LaMarcus Aldridge is steadily getting to where he — and Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan — believe he can be.
Aldridge scored a season-high 29 points and added 12 rebounds to help Portland snap the Phoenix Suns' six-game winning streak with a 129-109 victory Thursday night.
McMillan thinks that Aldridge, who is in his third season, is well on his way to consistent double-doubles. He leads the team with 18 this season.
"He's still learning to take advantage of what he can do, and I think he can be a dominant force on both ends of the floor," McMillan said.
Aldridge admits it's getting easier.
"I don't want to jinx myself, but as you play the game longer, you see things better," he said.
Aldridge and the Blazers are sitting at sixth in the Western Conference, in a tangle of teams jockeying for position behind the leading Los Angeles Lakers.
Phoenix, making a late push for the playoffs, is ninth in the Western Conference — 31/2; games behind Dallas.
"We cut ourselves into a deep hole with too many mistakes, and they capitalized on out mistakes," said Shaquille O'Neal, who had 20 points for the Suns. "We left their shooters open way too much and they knocked down the shots. They had a lot of energy."
Portland led 100-79 after three quarters, following Rudy Fernandez's jumper and buzzer-beating 3-pointer from 25 feet. The Suns sat their starters most of the rest of the way.
Fernandez came off the bench to score 23 points. The rookie from Spain made a career-high five 3-pointers.
Brandon Roy added 26 points and nine rebounds for the Blazers, who led by as many as 29 points.
"It felt good," Roy said. "It was a fun game to play, and it was a fun game to sit on the bench and cheer."
The Suns were coming off a 118-114 home victory over the Jazz the night before. After scoring 26 points in that game, Hill had just six against Portland.
The Blazers were coming off a 114-108 overtime loss to Philadelphia on Monday night. Roy was off, with just 12 points, and it hurt Portland. The two-time All-Star shrugged off whatever was bothering him against the Suns, jumping out with nine first-quarter points to set the tone.
The matchup between O'Neal and Greg Oden got off to a bad start for the rookie, when O'Neal twirled around him for the basket and the foul.
But Oden had two key blocks in the second quarter and Portland built a 40-33 lead after Travis Outlaw's dunk. The Blazers led 57-65 at the half.
Steve Blake's floater put Portland up 71-61 early in the second half, and Aldridge extended it to 87-74 on a fast-break layup.
Oden's hook shot made it 91-74, capping a 12-4 Portland run.
"We can't blame tonight on not having our legs," O'Neal said. "We have to fight through it. A lot of teams play back-to-backs, a lot of teams get in late. When we step on the court we have to be ready to play."
The Suns beat the Blazers twice this season in Phoenix, but lost in Portland on Dec. 18 when Roy took off with a career-high 52 points in a 124-119 victory. It snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Suns.
Notes: French rookie Nicolas Batum, considered questionable before the game because of a sore left ankle, started for the Blazers. ... O'Neal and Joel Przybilla exchanged words late in the second quarter and were handed offsetting technical fouls. ... Fernandez had four 3-pointers in the first half, tying his career high. ... The Suns' playoff push doesn't get any easier with a game at Utah on Saturday. ... Portland's point total was a season high. ... Stromile Swift had a season-high 12 points for the Suns.