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? What were your favorite things that happened this week? Let us know in the comments below.
Mom’s Favorite: Nassir Little
It has been a week of growth for Nassir Little. Against Atlanta and Sacramento he played a combined 13 minutes, missed all of his shots, had two rebounds, and one personal foul. But coach Terry Stotts saw something in the 19-year old that doesn’t show up in the box score: Energy. Grit. Determination. Whatever you want to call it, Little earned a spot in the starting lineup.
He has played 55 minutes as a starter. While he hasn’t torched the nets with scoring, he’s upped the energy level on the court. Over the last two games he has averaged the top speed on the team (4.42 mph) and the top speed on defense (4.43 mph). He’s also logged a lot of miles. Before he became a starter he averaged just under half a mile per game. He ran 1.69 miles against Toronto and 2.61 against San Antonio.
In addition to covering a lot of ground, Little has been getting much-needed rebounds. The Blazers have hung their hats on rebounding over the last several years but find themselves uncharacteristically in the middle of the pack this season. He contributed two offensive rebounds in each game against Toronto and San Antonio including a tremendous reach above cagey veteran Rudy Gay, which he also managed to deflect off of Gay to win the team the ball on the inbound. This crucial play with the score tied and 1:28 to go in the game is why, even with Carmelo Anthony coming to the rescue, I believe we will continue to see Little play in important moments this season.
As he develops, this is what we are going to get from Nas Little: energy plays and momentum changing highlights. A block against Toronto:
A no-hesitation three-point shot:
A tremendous dunk that brought Portland to within two against San Antonio:
Finally, Little is not afraid to move the ball. When he’s in the starting lineup, he’s averaged 30 passes per game, behind only Lillard and McCollum. This is not to say that he has shown playmaking abilities, but that he can keep a play alive. Keeping hope alive is something we can all relate to about now, and that is what Nas Little has done to close out this week.
Rodney Hood returns. After a pretty good start (11.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, one steal, shooting 48 percent from three) it was distressing to see Rodney Hood sidelined with back spasms. I was worried about easing him back into the lineup when they so clearly needed a shooter right away.
It appears I didn’t need to worry because he came back strong, scoring 25 and 16 points in his first two games back. Despite still feeling sore, he took 15 shots against Toronto, the most he’s taken all season. The last time he had that many attempts was March 25, including all of the rounds of the playoffs.
He was key to giving the Blazers even the hope of winning the Toronto game. With the Raptors throwing everything they had at Damian Lillard, Hood was their best shooter, making 9-15 including 5-10 from three.
With CJ McCollum cooking against the Spurs, Hood did not attempt as many shots but he was even more efficient, making 6-8 from the field, including 2-3 from three. Hood is the release valve the Blazers need right now when Lillard and McCollum are under pressure.
Whiteside free throws: Whiteside has increased his free throw shooting percentage from an abysmal 44.9 percent last season all the way to 76.6 percent as a Blazer. Not only has he increased his overall percentage, he’s increased it when it counts. Except for Zach Collins who only played two games, Whiteside is leading the team in free throw shooting in the 4th quarter at 92.3 percent. This week he made nine of ten fourth-quarter free throws. Saturday night as the Blazers were mounting a comeback against the Spurs he completed an and-1 with 3:30 to go to pull them within four, and then he hit two more to give them a three point lead with 37 seconds to go. Kudos to you, big fella!
Kent Bazemore 3s in overtime: Bazemore has yet to breakout offensively, but he made big strides on Sunday when he hit two clutch three-pointers to start the overtime. That it was against his former team was extra sweet.
CJ McCollum continuing to get his groove back. It wasn’t so much a matter of if CJ would get his groove back as when. After bottoming out last week with 21.1 percent shooting against Brooklyn, McCollum has become much more efficient. He went through a six game stretch where he hit only 17.2 percent (5-29) from three-point range. Over the last four games he has improved to 37.5%.
He also filled up the stat sheet in other ways, averaging 6.3 rebounds, four assists, one block and one steal. He is still having a hard time getting to the free throw line (1.5 attempts) and is frankly awful at hitting them (16.7 percent--worse than his worst three point slump this season!) but now that his shooting seems to be rounding back into form and he’s contributing in other ways, this might help settle him down on the line.
Melo to Portland. Listen, someone needs to say this. With the departure of Evan Turner and Al Farouq Aminu the . . . er, drip (is that what you call it?) is seriously lacking this season. Of course Hassan Whiteside’s princely blue coat he wore on the bench against Philadelphia and Jufus Nurkic’s purple plaid suit spice it up here and there, but Turner and Aminu took it to another level night after night. Game after game of Pau Gasol in a blazer and slacks and Anfernee Simons in team sweats just isn’t cutting it for the pregame fashion shows. For that reason alone I for one welcome the Blazer’s new fashion icon, Carmelo Anthony.
Carmelo Anthony is all bundled up. pic.twitter.com/nq5voq7uWX— Mike Vorkunov (@MikeVorkunov) March 15, 2017
That will do it for this week’s Mom’s Favorites. Was there anything you liked about this week? What plays or player make you excited for the future? Let us know in the comments below.
Xoxo Team Mom | @tcbbiggs