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Blazers Benefiting From Jusuf Nurkic’s Assist Increase

Team Mom highlights Jusuf Nurkic’s passing, Maurice Harkless getting involved on the defensive end, and plenty of noteworthy things from Damian Lillard.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Portland Trail Blazers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

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 11: December 23-29. Mavericks (W), Utah Jazz (L), Warriors (W), Warriors (L)

Mom’s Favorite: Nurkic’s passing

Earlier this week, after the victory over the Mavericks, I came home from the game and told Mr. Team Mom, “I think the Blazers are passing the ball more.” Then I sat in my easy chair, turned on the replay of the game, and fell asleep. The next morning I fired up the computer to check my assumption. Are the Blazers passing the ball more? Nope. They have held steady around 283 passes per game throughout the season (I even did the math, adjusting for overtime).

So why does it seem like the ball is moving more? Could it be because different players are passing it around? Indeed, one player has steadily grown in that department. Here is a look at Jusuf Nurkic’s passing numbers this season. Below is a table that compares his season-long averages to his recent results.

Jusuf Nurkic passing and assists in December

Nurkic Season Last 10 games Last 4 games
Nurkic Season Last 10 games Last 4 games
Passes made 40.8 47.5 55.3
Assists 2.9 4.3 4.8

Over the last four games, Nurkic has been the second-best passer on the team and only trails Damian Lillard in assists over that span. This looks like a steady progression, both in the number of passes he averages per game, and in the number of assists.

As they have been for most of the season, Nurkic’s primary targets are Lillard and CJ McCollum. Lillard regularly receives more than half of Nurkic’s passes (23.2 per game). The Lillard-to-Nurkic connection—passes going in both directions—far surpasses all other combinations. The two have combined for a team-high 255 points this season off assists to each other.

For those hoping to see more of the offense moving through Nurkic, it looks like Santa is making your wish come true.

Gold Star: Maurice Harkless, active and engaged

Over the last four games Harkless has scored 9.3 points per game, well over his season average of 5.1. Even though he has struggled lately from distance (shooting 22.2 percent this week), he has stayed engaged defensively. This week, Harkless trailed only Lillard in deflections per game (2.8), and was tied with him for loose balls recovered (1.3).

Here are a handful of non-scoring highlights (okay, there is some scoring):

Honorable Mentions

Seth Curry is averaging 5.1 points, 1.4 rebounds, and 0.9 assists in 16.7 minutes this season. Fans have been waiting for him to record a signature shooting performance. This week he had that break-out game. Curry exploded for 11 points in the fourth quarter to help the Blazers fight off the Warriors.

Just looking at that game does a disservice to his overall progression in the month of December. On a week-to-week basis, you can see his points, rebounds and assists are trending up, while his turnovers are trending down.

Bar graph shows Seth Curry points, rebounds and assists are gradually climbing over the month of December. Turnovers are decreasing.

The BFF screen: In the ugly, wonderful win against the team from the Bay Area this week, I loved one specific screen. While walking up the court, Nurkic kept his body between Steph Curry and Lillard. Not like Curry was a threat to Damian in this particular moment, it was more like a demonstration by Nurkic that he would go the extra mile for his BFF.

Al-Farouq A-dunk of the week. Remember that one time that Luka Doncic looked like he was actually 19?

Damian Lillard Community Assist Award: We are so spoiled to have Lillard in our community.

Damian Lillard flexing his Oakland roots with a win:

Evan Turner’s custom Christmas kicks

Dog house

Don’t be in the dog house: remember to vote for Damian Lillard to be an All-Star. You should vote today and every day between now and Jan. 21. Here is the link: 2019 All-Star Voting

That will do it for this week’s Mom’s Favorites. What were your favorite things that happened this week? Let us know in the comments below!