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The X-Factors for the Blazers

When most fans think of the Portland Trail Blazers, their minds immediately go to Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, and for good reason. Both are perennial All-Star candidates, and they’re playing tremendously thus far in the 2019 Playoffs. Through eight games, Lillard is putting up 30.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 6.0 assists while shooting 40.2% from deep. Lillard has shot the ball worse this second round, however, he’s capable of getting hot in a flash, and he can score from anywhere, as evidenced by his 37-foot series-ending buzzer beater against the Thunder.

As the team’s second option, McCollum is averaging 24.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists while shooting 41.3% from three these playoffs. Last night, he largely put the team on his back with a 41 point outing in Portland’s 4-OT win. The Blazers might start with Lillard and McCollum, but they certainly don’t end there. So who else is having a huge impact for Portland these playoffs?

Enes Kanter

blazers-enes kanter-nuggets-portland-denver
Kanter is clearly playing through immense pain, which makes his elite performance all the more impressive. Photo by Jaime Valdez/USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the 2019 playoffs, Kanter has shown how valuable he can be, even after many counted him out due to his poor defense. He’s averaging 15.6 points and 10.3 rebounds while shooting 58.6% from the field, and he continues to play at a high level even after suffering a separated shoulder in Game 5 against the Thunder. While some feel that Kanter should sit out to avoid becoming like Isaiah Thomas who gave his body and potentially his career for a Celtic playoff run, it’s admirable what Kanter is doing. Just by watching him, it’s evident that his injury is significant, yet he continues to grit it out night in and night out for the benefit of his team. Needless to say, his gutsy performance deserves respect, particularly from those who doubted him most.

Moe Harkless

What Harkless does for this Blazers team doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, but he’s crucial to the team’s success. His averages of 9.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists on 46.9% from the field and 25.0% from three these playoffs aren’t particularly impressive, but where he most shines is his defense and effort. Harkless also averages 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks per game, he can switch effectively from 1-4, and he’s great in loose ball situations, which is invaluable to any team.

Rodney Hood

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Hood galloped onto the court in the fourth overtime, and came in clutch for the team including this massive three to take the lead. Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Frankly, Hood was terrible in the first round. He put up 3.2 points, 1.4 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 19.7 minutes, and shot 27.3% from the field and 16.7% from three against the Thunder. Hood has always shown flashes of incredible scoring prowess throughout his career, and while he didn’t show any of that in round one, he’s come out in full force in the second round.

Against the Nuggets, Hood is putting up 17.0 points per game on 55.2% from the field and 53.8% from deep. Despite playing just 24 minutes in a quadruple overtime game where several players played upwards of 55 minutes (and Jokic played 65 minutes), Hood came out the hero in the fourth overtime period. He checked into the game with less than two minutes remaining and his team down by two and proceeded to score seven straight. He hit two mid-range jumpers over Jamal Murray before draining a three to take the lead with 17.8 seconds left. Denver’s smaller guards allow the 6-foot-8 Hood to create a huge mismatch. Look for him to continue to do damage as Portland tries to secure two more wins to beat the Nuggets and advance to the Conference Finals.


Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference

Featured image courtesy of Craig Mitchelldyer/AP Photo

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1 comment

2019 Western Conference Finals: Warriors vs. Trail Blazers Preview • The Game Haus May 14, 2019 at 8:13 am

[…] big man Jusuf Nurkic out with injury, several players have stepped up to aid Portland’s star backcourt. Enes Kanter, Rodney Hood and Zach Collins have all had […]

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