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.
Lay-ups from Lillard and McCollum sparked a 17-3 run over last 3:36 of the fourth. Score went from 96-102 to 113-105. Super impressive finish to the game on both ends for the Blazers. https://t.co/rFc9uQSpqh— Eric Griffith (@EricG_NBA) December 9, 2018
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.
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.
Meyers needs to have the green light on three-point attempts with this much room pic.twitter.com/GlwiAvi8Df— Nate Mann (@nate_mann13) December 9, 2018
Shoot the ball, big man!