Offense came pretty easy for the Trail Blazers on Friday night in Atlanta.
Damian Lillard exploded for 18-first quarter points on 7-of-9 shooting, and he never looked back. Lillard totaled 36 points in the Blazers’ 118-98 win over the Atlanta Hawks.
The Trail Blazers have now won six straight.
Friday marked the second game without starting center Jusuf Nurkic (left leg) and the sixth game without CJ McCollum (left knee).
In McCollum’s absence there have been several role players to step up and try to make up for his 21.3 points per game. Friday night in Atlanta, it was Al-Farouq Aminu who helped in that department. The Blazers starting forward was Portland’s second leading scorer with 17 points.
Friday was also a homecoming Chief.
After the game, Aminu talked with reporters about how great it was being back home and seeing his family.
“It’s always nice, especially when I get to see the family, my brother’s kids. I don’t get to see them, and a lot of other people here. So, it’s just nice for people getting to see what I do for a living,” Aminu said.
The 28-year-old grew up in the greater Atlanta area and attended high school just 21 miles from downtown.
Aminu spent his day with his family on Thursday, and for Chief, it was almost like a reset button on the season.
“It’s just nice to get quality time. It’s like an escape from the season… You get to talk about old memories and things like that,” Aminu said.
Aminu not only stepped up in big way on offense, he also grabbed 11 rebounds to go along with two assists and one block.
Blazers head coach Terry Stotts decided to start Enes Kanter at the center spot in place of the injured Nurkic for the second straight game, but Stotts was also continuing to experiment with lineups.
With the different lineups, Aminu played limited minutes at the five and Moe Harkless was moved to the four, which meant Aminu was the only “big” on the floor at times.
“Chief is long. You know, he’s not a typical center, but I think it’s something that we have to look at… Having Chief and Moe, Rodney or Jake, Evan -- we’ve got good length on the wing. I don’t know how much we’ll do that, but we’ll have to look at it and see how it goes,” Stotts told reporters postgame.
Now that Portland is 9-2 in its last 11 road games and they continue to roll, Aminu is giving a lot credit to his teammates.
“I think we’re still playing solid. I think we’re a smart team. I think we’ve adapted quickly, which is impressive,” Aminu said.
In his postgame interview, Aminu also mentioned that between him and Evan Turner, they have been the two role plays who are able to use their veteran leadership to “make sure the team doesn’t get to high, doesn’t get too low.”
Aminu also said he isn’t feeling any added pressure with two of the Blazers leading scorers out with injury, but he is making sure to step up and knock down shots when the chance is there.
“Obviously, when the opportunities are there, I’m just trying to capitalize,” Aminu said.