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.
Mom’s Favorite: Jusuf Nurkic getting it done in so many ways
I knew on Wednesday night I was going to be talking about Jusuf Nurkic. With the Blazers trailing the Kings by six with 1:25 remaining, Nurkic headed to the foul line for two shots. I said to myself, if he makes these and the Blazers pull this out, he’s going to be Mom’s Favorite. Sinking those two shots under pressure, with their backs to the wall, was what finally won me over.
The free throws, however, were really just the beginning of a stellar week for Nurkic. Over the last four games he has averaged 21.3 points on 60 percent shooting from the field. Outside of his point production, Nurkic averaged 13.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.8 blocks. He did all of that in 30 minutes per night, and only averaged 2.5 fouls and 2.5 turnovers.
His eye-popping 5-by-5 against the Kings was truly impressive, and scoring more than 20 points in five of his last six games helped the team immensely. All that aside, the thing that stands out the most is just how many ways he has been effective. This week was a treat to watch. Nurkic continued to build his reputation as a multi-dimensional center.
Against the Thunder, he unleashed this Lillard-esque up-and-under move at the rim.
Where did that come from?
But that’s not all. Nurkic has scored, rebounded, and defended in just about every way possible lately. Watch these highlights compiled over the last four games. He passes to cutters (bounce passes and over the top), follows blocks with buckets, gets his own offensive rebounds, completes cross-court passes, and puzzles Steven Adams with post moves—you get the idea. It is two minutes long and barely scratches the surface of how much fun Nurkic has been to watch.
Gold Star: Layman back in the lineup
I find it bittersweet when one player falls out of the rotation to be replaced by another. Nik Stauskas has been on the receiving end of CD-DNPs lately and in his place enters Jake Layman.
Against the Thunder, Layman was 5-7 from the field in 12 minutes. His shooting came back down to earth against Houston, but he also had two rebounds and a steal in 21 minutes. I loved his pumped-up shout of “come on” when he made this three against OKC. You did good, go ahead and howl!
Blazers actually got to practice this week. Between Dec. 11 and Jan. 1 the Blazers played 12 games in 22 days. They had more days on than off. In addition to it being a grind, a schedule like that doesn’t leave much time for practice. On Thursday, the Blazers finally got back to the gym.
Evan Turner says “Give me that!” Even though his points, rebounds, and assists have been down slightly over his season average, Turner came up big with a momentum-changing play on Saturday. He simply snatched the ball from James Harden on a crucial possession.
Guess who is clawing their way up the assist ladder? I do feel a certain way about wanting assists just for the sake of wanting assists, but it has grown tiresome over the last few seasons. After finishing last in 2017-18, with 19.5 assists per game, the team is averaging 21.5 this season. Over the last 10 games they are averaging 22.7, and in the loss to the Thunder they put up a season-high 30 assists. That many assists in a loss is a good reminder that more assists doesn’t always equal success, but the steady increase of assists does seem to indicate that the Blazers are looking for better shots. Or, it could be that their shooters are successfully completing their attempts—either outcome is a good sign.
Photo of the week: I’ll be adding this photo to the mantle alongside my other three sons.
NBC Sports Northwest put it best: Aminu had a “dunk so good it got Chief a technical.” Come on, let the man live. #AminuAppreciationSociety
Don’t be in the doghouse: remember to vote for Damian Lillard for All Star today and every day between now and Jan. 21.
That’s it for this edition of Mom’s Favorites. What were your favorite Trail Blazers moments over the last week? Let us know in the comments below.