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Lillard Hustles with Blocks, Steals and Deflections

Damian Lillard’s defensive effort for the Trail Blazers earns Mom’s Favorite honors this week.

Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Each week, Team Mom highlights her favorites plays, players and other things that made the Trail Blazers fun to watch. Who is Mom’s Favorite this week? Did anyone get put in the dog house? What were your favorite things this week? Let us know in the comments below.

Week 10: December 16-22. Los Angeles Clippers (W), Memphis Grizzlies (W), Utah Jazz (L)

Mom’s Favorite: MVP Candidate Damian Lillard

Late last week, Damian Lillard was left off of the Kia MVP ladder by analyst Sekou Smith. He did not even get an honorable mention. You’d think the league would have learned by now what happens when you overlook Lillard. He went out and beat the ClippersTobias Harris and the Grizzlies’ Mike Conley, both of whom were recognized in the top 15.

Lillard’s scoring was up just a bit this week to 27.3 points per game, which is above his season average 26.9. He was more efficient than usual from the field. He connected on 50 percent of his shots from the field, and shot a remarkable 65.2 percent from beyond the arc. He was second in the league in second-half points and led in the league in third-quarter points.

However, what really stood out to me this week were those stats at the bottom of the traditional box score: 2.3 steals, 1.3 blocks and 1.7 fouls. Lillard tied his season high with three steals against the Jazz, and nabbed two against both the Grizzlies and Jazz. He had two blocks, each against the Jazz and the Grizzlies. Even with all this activity, he averaged slightly under his season mark of 1.8 fouls per game.

Lillard was also above his average in deflections this week, averaging 3.7 per game compared to 1.8 per game this season. It appears to me that he is stepping up his defensive intensity. The rest of the team needs to follow suit, as their net rating has tumbled to the bottom-third of the league for the month of December.

Gold Star

Tuesday’s game against Memphis marked the 500th game that Lillard suited up in a Trail Blazers’ jersey. Congratulations, Damian, here’s to 500 more games and all the franchise records for you!

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That’s a lot of points.

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Honorable Mentions

Early looks for Maurice Harkless. Over the last several games, the Blazers have made an effort to get the ball to Harkless in the first quarter. Against Houston, Los Angeles, and Memphis, Harkless touched the ball on an offensive possession within the first two minutes of the game. In that trio of contests, he averaged a final tally of 10.3 points. Feed Moe early for good results!

R.I.P. Eddie the Otter. The fact that Blazer fans had a favorite slam-dunking otter is something worth celebrating. I can’t imagine many other fanbases can claim that (if any at all). We will miss you Eddie!

Meyers’ 3-pointers return. Until he sunk a 3-point shot against Memphis on Wednesday, Meyers Leonard had not hit from distance in five games. This smile and the relief on his face marked a welcome end to an unusual dry spell this season.

Leonard went on to shoot 3-5 from 3-point range against the Jazz. His shooting was just about the only thing keeping any hope alive in a 30-point loss to Utah.

Leonard keeps it classy. At the end of the Clippers game, Leonard had an opportunity score and bring the Blazers past the 100-point threshold, thus earning everyone in Portland free chicken nuggets via the McDonalds app. However, the game was locked up at that point and most NBA players/teams are sensitive about running up the score when the game is essentially over. When fans complained (one court side fan complained right in his ear), Meyers responded that if anyone really wanted nuggets, they could find him and he would buy them some.

Evan Turner fills in for Jason Conception on the NBA Desktop show and provides the kind of useful advice only ET could give:

“Before you go out, check your teeth for food and your nose for boogers.”

The Blazers should make a Hallmark movie. Maybe its because they were in Tinseltown or maybe its that time of year, but to me these photos could be publicity shots for a grade-A Hallmark feature. Smart and funny Brooke Olzendam looks like creative-and-accomplished leading lady, both Lillard and Harkless could play free-spirits-with-a-heart-of-gold, and Jusuf Nurkic makes a strong case for a busy-businessman starring role. Okay, I’ll go back to basketball now . . .

The look of disappointment on Nurkic’s face: As the saying goes, “sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug”. A three-game winning streak came to a crashing halt against the Jazz on Friday. Nothing sums up that game better than this pass late in the third quarter from Lillard to Nurkic--who was on the bench at the time.

This play could have gone in the dog house, but I think they know what went wrong here. No need to dwell on it.

That’s it for this edition of Mom’s Favorites. Who or what were your favorite things this week? Let us know in the comments below!