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Hidden Highlights: Nurkic rebounds, CJ’s lay-up, and the Blazers converting to Morey-ball

Eric Griffith digs into some stats and game film to find the less noticed highlights.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The Trail Blazers have had an interesting start to the 2018-19 season, seemingly bouncing between their best and worst possible performances on a weekly basis. After winning the last two games, the Blazers will look continue their upswing tonight against the Rockets.

As we all kill time at work waiting for that game to start, let’s take a look at a few hidden highlights.

Jusuf Nurkic EIGHT offensive rebounds

The “hidden” part of this highlight isn’t that Nurkic grabbed eight offensive rebounds on Friday against the Timberwolves — all of Twitter noticed that — it was who he beat up to do it:

On this play Nurkic overpowered the smaller Minnesota players on the boards to earn an extra possession. The Timberwolves are a particularly switchy team so Nurk often found himself fighting over/around the box-out of a much smaller player and he took full advantage.

It’s encouraging to see Nurkic begin to use his size in situations other than post-ups. Playing a traditional center limits a team’s gameplan, to an extent, in the modern NBA so it’s crucial that the Bosnian Beast’s heft give the Blazers some kind shot in the arm to offset his limitations.

The two prettiest lay-ups you’ll ever see

After 45 minutes of mostly even play against Minnesota, the Blazers absolutely dominated the end of the game.

It’s hard to describe how pretty the game-icing lay-ups from Lillard and McCollum were. CJ’s, especially, was some kind of Andre Miller-esque below-the-rim wizardy fused with Calvin Murphy-esque elusiveness and speed.

Truly unstoppable.

Inside scoring coming around

Last year the Blazers finished dead last in the NBA in field goal percentage within five feet of the basket. This season they’ve improved by 1.6 percent, moving up five spots in the rankings. That’s not a huge improvement, but it is a step in the right direction.

Perhaps surprisingly, it’s not improvement from the more aggressive Nurkic or hot shooting from one of the newcomers spurring this change. Rather, Zach Collins and Al-Farouq Aminu are primarily responsible for the inside scoring improvement so far.

This is part of a larger trend for the Blazers toward improved efficiency; as discussed last week the Blazers are shooting more 3s, in general, and the percentage of their total shots that come from beyond the arc or in the restricted area has increased significantly:

Shoot the ball Meyers

This is more of a hidden lowlight, but it can’t be ignored. Meyers Leonard is shooting very well this season. Now he just needs to get more aggressive.

Shoot the ball, big man!