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Blazers Continue to Increase Workload at the Rim

The Trail Blazers are dunking and alley-ooping all over the place, leading to increased production at the rim.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-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 15: Jan 20- Jan 26. Utah Jazz (W), Oklahoma City Thunder (L), Phoenix Suns (W), Atlanta Hawks (W)

Mom’s Favorite

On the Blazer’s Edge Podcast I pledged to donate one ticket to Blazers Edge Night for each alley-oop dunk made in December and January.

For reference, last season in the month of December they had one lone alley-oop dunk--a garbage time lob from Shabazz Napier to Noah Vonleh in a blow-out against the Hawks. The next month they tripled their production and threw down three alley-oop dunks: a rumbling flush by Jusuf Nurkic and two sky-high slams (one of them backwards) by Pat Connaughton.

This year, the Blazers must have heard about what a great event Blazers’ Edge Night is because they have been racking up the alley-oop dunks ever since I made my pledge. Four in December and now up to 12 in January. I’m happy that the Blazers and I could combine our efforts to send so many kids to a game later this season.

Gold Star: Even more dunks

The Blazers’ uptick in activity around the rim has been a major point of improvement this season. They are currently ninth in the league in field goals in the restricted area with 19.1 per game. Last year they ranked No. 23 with 16.1 per game. They are still only shooting a dismal 60 percent on those shots, but that is better than last year when they ranked last with a 57.7 percent conversion rate.

A portion of that increased volume and accuracy in the restricted area can be attributed to an increase in dunks. Across the board, the Blazers are dunking more. Through 50 games, these players have already eclipsed last year’s totals: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Al-Farouq Aminu, Meyers Leonard, Jake Layman and Zach Collins. Nurkic has yet to hit 61 which was his total for last season, but with 47 dunks so far, he’s on pace to finish at around 77.

The players who made the biggest leap (literally and figuratively) are Leonard with 37 dunks and Layman with 31. Last season Meyers only had eight dunks and Jake had three. Can you believe how much we were missing out on? Here are highlights from just this week.

Honorable Mention

Al-Faruq Aminu dislocated his finger (warning: gross displaced digit photo) on Thursday night, left the game, then returned to nab four more points and two rebounds. He followed up that performance with a nearly perfect game on Saturday night, posting 17 points on 4-5 shooting. Its been quite a week for the #AminuAppreciationSociety.

McCollum gets his first triple-double. I don’t mean to sound less-than-enthusiastic about this, but I’m still waiting for someone to get a triple-double in a big game. I think McCollum would probably agree. It was fun to be in the arena rooting for it at the end of a game against an Eastern Conference lottery team, but I’d like to see Lillard get a triple-double in a win over the Golden State Warriors. Is that too much to ask?

Rookies tearing up the G-League Gary Trent Jr. averaged 30 points per game with the Texas Legends this week. In his first game he came off the bench, scoring 24 points with four rebounds, two assists and two steals. On Wednesday, he scored 33 and was 12-12 from the free throw line. On Friday, he notched 33 points again on a near-perfect night from beyond the arc.

Anfernee Simons played 2 games with the Agua Caliente Clippers this week, averaging 23.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2 assists. There was a handful of nice highlights from his 25-point game against Salt Lake City.

Lillard became the second player in NBA history to record a 3-pointer in each of his team’s first 50 games of the season.

Nurkic learning new skills. We’ve all loved watching Nurkic add more to his game: more dunks, more passing, more stare-downs. This week he picked up team photographer Bruce Ely’s camera and showed he’s got even more new skills. Here are Nurkic’s photos, shared by the Trail Blazers (followed by an action shot of the artist himself):

Dog House

I’m sure this doesn’t apply to anyone reading this on Blazer’s Edge, but all the rest of the 2019 NBA All-Star voters who didn’t vote for Lillard are in the dog house this week.

Somehow, Derrick Rose ended up with the second-most fan votes. Intellectually I don’t have a problem with the guards who were ultimately selected this year, Stephen Curry and James Harden. But my heart hurts that Lillard could not get the recognition outside of Rip City for all that he has accomplished on and off the court, night after night, day after day. Next year, Rip City, next year!

What were your favorite things this week? Let us know in the comments below!

xoxo Team Mom | @tcbbiggs