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Blazers’ Damian Lillard: Setting the Series Tone

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Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are stepping up in big ways this postseason for the Trail Blazers and Team Mom picks out what she likes the most.

NBA: Playoffs-Oklahoma City Thunder at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-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.

Playoffs Round 1, Week 1: Game 1 in Portland (W), Game 2 in Portland (W), Game 3 in Oklahoma City (L)

Mom’s Favorite: Damian Lillard

Among many good things Damian Lillard has done this week, such as averaging 30.3 points, four rebounds and 5.3 assists per game, the two that I liked the most—because they made the biggest statement—were his long bombs from three and his active hands on defense.

The Thunder sat up and took notice when he launched that first three from more than 30 feet and then proceeded to defend and force turnovers. This put the Thunder immediately on their heels, scrambling to play in a new video game reality where Lillard doesn’t even need to get close to the three point line, and oh, by the way, he will hound you on defense as well.

Enjoy some of these ultra long range looks from Lillard.

In addition to twisting the Thunder players’ brains all around with his extra-long range, Lillard has stepped up his defense. He has poked balls out of players hands and jumped into the lanes to disrupt passes. For the playoffs, he is averaging 2.7 steals per game (up from 1.3 in the regular season) and capitalizing to the tune of 5.3 points per game off of opponent turnovers. Here are some steals Lillard made this week.

With long range shooting and tenacious defense, Lillard came out this week and established dominance at the top of the hill. It is up to Russell Westbrook to knock him off.

Gold Star: CJ McCollum

Along with Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum has also stepped up his game. His box scores show significant increases across the board, averaging about five points, three rebounds and two assists more than he did in the regular season. He is also showing a welcome jump in three point shooting, averaging 3.7 made 3-point shots per game on 50 percent shooting.

He is passing the ball around more as well (about three more passes per game) and getting more assists. He is also the only player on the team who has assisted every other player who has scored in the series (Evan Turner has yet to score).

This video includes a pass to Lillard for a corner three, a feed to Kanter under the basket, an over-the-top pass to Zach Collins, a baseline bounce pass to Harkless for three, a dribble that he almost loses then dumps off to Meyers Leonard, and a toss to Curry for a corner three. (He also assisted Rodney Hood and Al-Farouq Aminu but unfortunately there are no clips on stats.nba.com for any of his seven assists during Friday’s game in Oklahoma City.)

While Damian Lillard is being hounded by Russell Westbrook, McCollum has been fighting off Paul George who is both longer and more athletic than he is. In their four meetings during the regular season, George guarded McCollum for only about eight possessions per game. Over the three playoff games, George has guarded him more than 23 possessions per game. Despite being guarded by one of the best defenders on almost three times as many possessions, McCollum has improved his shooting and assisted more during this post-season.

Honorable Mention

This is without a doubt my favorite sequence of basketball this whole season. Possibly in many seasons. What you don’t see in this clip is Damian Lillard deciding not to contest Westbrook’s three (I’m hoping he said to his face: “You just go right ahead and take that”). Off of that rebound, he then runs to the other end to sink a looooooong three over Raymond Felton.

It’s like he wrote the script before the night even started: “Let’s see, what would really get the Moda Center going? How about I low-key taunt Russell Westbrook and then drain a three over Raymond Felton? Yeah, that ought to do it.”

Kanter Dunk! Kanter only has 24 dunks this season (according to Basketball Reference) so this slam on an Al-Farouq Aminu outlet pass was a rare and welcome sight on Friday.

Patience. I’m not sure why but this play charmed me when it happened and it still brings a smile to my face. I know that my enjoyment of Aminu’s style of play is not shared by everyone. For those of you who are not big fans of his chaotic drives, here is a little moment of zen in which he choose to wait for Lillard.

Dame Jr out for a stroll. Lillard loves posting pictures of his son, here they are enjoying some time together before Dad headed out to Oklahoma City.

This Evan Turner outfit. I’m not exactly sure what is going on here, but there are some white bell-bottoms painted with a scene topped by a snow-white jacket with the most interesting pockets I have ever seen. Does he have anything in those pockets? Are they meant to be functional or decorative or both? The best part though might be the caption “Just a bloke out on a stroll on this Good Friday.”

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Just a bloke out on a stroll on this Good Friday

A post shared by evan turner (@evanturner) on

Evan Turner’s Prospects Showcase. This is an annual event in Turner’s hometown of Chicago. High school players who have not yet received scholarship offers are invited to the showcase to meet and play in front of college coaches still looking to fill their rosters. It is a chance for players who might have been overlooked to be given a second chance to play in college.

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