A pledge to Portland: Damian Lillard states his intentions to a city and organization


A pledge to Portland: Damian Lillard states his intentions to a city and organization

In the wake of Friday’s thorough defeat to the Golden State Warriors, Trail Blazers captain Damian Lillard said something that should be noted.

He was asked about a rather non-descript accomplishment during the blowout loss – becoming the first Blazers player to amass 40 points and 10 assists in the 20-year-old Moda Center.

Tucked ever so nicely in his answer was a significant notion: He wants to spend his entire career in Portland.

First, some perspective.

This is a Trail Blazers franchise haunted by defection.

LaMarcus Aldridge didn’t feel he was important enough. Rasheed Wallace was never comfortable here. Clyde Drexler wanted to go home. Bill Walton didn’t like the medical care. And Maurice Lucas wanted more money.

So they all forced their way out.

The franchise has made bad decisions, like trading Jermaine O’Neal right before he blossomed into a star. And nobody has to be reminded about this organization’s bad luck, from Sam Bowie’s legs to Brandon Roy’s knees.

They were all gone too soon.

So when Lillard was asked that question Friday night, about becoming the first Blazer to have 40 and 10 in the Moda Center, his answer should catch your ear.

“It’s always good to be the first one to do something,’’ Lillard said. “Especially being part of an organization I plan on being a part of for my entire career. It’s an honor, but I would have liked for it to be in a winning effort.’’

“…part of an organization I plan on being part of for my entire career … “

 To this city, this fan base, and this organization, his sentiment should mean something. And so should the timing.

As the chill of this winter begins to settle on Portland, so too has the notion this Blazers team will be anything more than a lottery team. The losses have become more frequent. So too have the blowouts. Shoot, these days the team can’t even get its active list in order.

For Lillard, the slippage has been accompanied by a balky case of plantar fasciitis in his left heel, an injury whose long-term prognosis can scare even the most hardened athlete.

In other words, these are not the best of times for the Blazers. Typically, times like these are when you find out about people.

Do they quit? Do they place blame? Do they make excuses? Do they look for a way out?

Lillard on Friday stood and looked at the maelstrom with his familiar look-in-your-eye stare of seriousness, and calmly reminded he was going nowhere.

“Things get tough. It’s a tough league,’’ Lillard said. “You have ups and downs. We flipped our roster, man.  We completely flipped and got a brand new team. And I signed up to be a part of it. To be a part of the growth. I have to grow just as much as our team has to grow, and I’m excited about that, that’s why it’s not hard for me to say that’s what I want.’’

The cynics out there will say it is easy for Lillard to say he wants to be here. The franchise over the summer awarded him a $120 million contract extension.

But for Lillard, it goes much deeper than money.

He says the organization has embraced him as a person. Also, the city and fan base appeal to his core values.

“When I really like what a place is about, that’s what I want to stick to. I want to stick to things that click with who I am as a person,’’ Lillard said.

He lives year round in Portland, where he has championed causes like Special Olympics, inner city youth programs, anti-bullying campaigns and helping sick children.

And inside the Blazers’ walls, he feels the team has made the effort to know him, and his causes, and taken the initiative to show they understand him.

He likes that he comes to work in the morning and Coach Terry Stotts will playfully call him by his rap name “Dame DOLLA.” He likes that when he launched his adidas shoe line, players and coaches came to the release. He likes that the organization plays his rap songs in the arena. He likes that employees who sit behind desks at the practice facility take part in his 4-Bar Friday concept that challenges the public to rap on Instagram.

“It’s been like a hand-and-glove fit,’’ Lillard said. “The fact that they have embraced who I am, the person along with the basketball player … I don’t think there is anything more comfortable than that. That’s why I have no problem committing to something like that.’’

 The Blazers (15-24) have lost three in a row to fall to a season-low nine games below .500, with Oklahoma City up next on Sunday (6 p.m., CSN). The Thunder embarrassed the Blazers in the first meeting, which at the time was one of the rare blowouts Portland has suffered. Now, as the competition has improved, the Blazers’ have suffered blowout losses in four of the past five games.

Until his 40 and 10 night against the Warriors, Lillard had looked shaky in the two games after his two-week stint on the sideline. His season-long shooting slump continued, and his turnovers were unsightly and frequent.

That cozy embrace from the Blazers faithful was starting to feel a draft. Was CJ McCollum better equipped to anchor the Blazers? Had Lillard regressed after such a meteoric rise early in his career?

I asked Lillard if he would feel as comfortable in his commitment to Portland if the fans turned on him?

“If the fans turn ... I will say this: I think the real fans of this organization, the real fans of this city, I don’t think they ever will,’’ Lillard said. “I understand fans have emotions, just like we do as players, and they have a right to be like ‘Man, Dame … whatever’ … But I just don’t see that happening here.

“They are loyal to who is loyal to them, and I don’t plan on giving them a reason to turn.’’

He knows he can shoot better this season. And he knows he can take better care of the ball. But he also doesn’t hold himself above admitting he too needs to grow, just like Noah Vonleh, Meyers Leonard and the rest of the young Blazers. Part of that growth includes shouldering a more prominent leadership role, an area that Stotts says Lillard is exceeding.

“When he was injured,’’ Stotts said, “he was the best leader in street clothes I’ve ever been around.’’

So Lillard marches on, oblivious to the noise around him, unconcerned with the chill left by a season heading south. The franchise pillars before him all found a reason to leave Portland when the going got tough, but Lillard figures now is the time to dig his heels in, even if they are sore.

“(Wanting to leave) is the easy thing to do. It is. That’s the easy thing to do,’’ Lillard said. “I have always been the type of person, when things are hard, to not think about how hard it is now. I think about what it will be like when we get through this, and how it turns into what I want it to turn into. Then, that will be the ultimate satisfaction.’’ 


NBA players react to Nurkic's injury


NBA players react to Nurkic's injury

Jusuf Nurkic sustained a left leg injury and left on a stretcher in the Blazers double overtime win over the Nets. 

The NBA world has taken to Twitter to show their support: 

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers double overtime win over the Brooklyn Nets

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Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers double overtime win over the Brooklyn Nets

What a crazy finish on Monday night in Portland.

But first, Trail Blazers fans were eager to welcome back former Blazers Ed Davis and Shabazz Napier for the first time since the two have been wearing Nets uniforms.

It was a close game throughout on Monday night. The Blazers and Nets were in a three-point shootout for most of the game.

Fans welcomed Davis with loud applause and cheers. Napier did not get in the game, but you can bet fans would’ve given him the same ovation.

The Blazers came from behind in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 120. In overtime, it was back-and-forth until both Portland and Brooklyn settled on 132 points each at the end of overtime. So, to double OT they went.

In the second overtime, the game went from physical to even more physical and that's when Jusuf Nurkic suffered a terrible left leg injury and left the game on a stretcher with 2:22 minutes remaining.

In the end, the Trail Blazers defeated the Nets, 148-144, as Portland goes undefeated in its four-game homestand. 

The Blazers also clinched a playoff spot with the victory. This marks Portland’s sixth consecutive postseason appearance.

Final Box Score: Trail Blazers 148, Nets 144 

Here are some quick thoughts from the Blazers fifth straight home victory:

1. Nets get their fare share of 3s

In the first 12 minute of play, Brooklyn shot 10 three-pointers and made four of them.  It’s in the scouting report that the Nets like to throw up a lot of threes.

The Trail Blazers got out on the perimeter after the first quarter and were able to run the Nets off the three-point line or get a hand in their face, which was a big reason Portland was able to hold off the Nets.  

2. Blazers take advantage of zone defense

Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said before the game, that the plan was to throw a number of defenders at Damian Lillard and different defensive looks.

The first time Brooklyn went to a zone, Enes Kanter made the Nets pay with a putback early in the second quarter.

It wasn’t just rebounding that Blazers were taking advantage of against the Nets’ defense. Portland was able to knock down wide-open threes with the Nets sitting back in the zone. Zach Collins knocked down two straight threes early in the second.

Brooklyn plays the most zone defense in the league, but against Portland you would think the Nets would rethink that, but they didn’t.

3. Free throw discrepancy

If Brooklyn would’ve shot better from the charity stripe, the Nets would’ve walked away with an easy win. After three quarters, Brooklyn was 21-of-31 from the free throw line to the Blazers 8-of-12 attempts. The Nets couldn’t capitalize on getting more whistles.

NEXT UP: The Trail Blazers hit the road for a four-game trip. First stop-- the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night with tip-off set for 5:00pm. Our pregame coverage tips off at 4:00pm on NBC Sports Northwest.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your Blazers and stream the games easily on your device.


Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Brooklyn Nets

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Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Brooklyn Nets

The regular season is winding down and Portland is in a groove right now, having won three in a row and six of its last seven games.

As for Brooklyn, the Nets are playing in the sixth game of a current seven-game trip that will wrap up on Thursday in Philadelphia.

Tonight’s contest will be the second and final meeting between the Blazers and Nets this season. Portland won the first meeting in Brooklyn, 113-99, back on February 21st.

Before tonight’s game, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson gave injury updates and more.

Blazers Injury Update: CJ McCollum (left knee) is out for Monday’s game vs. Brooklyn.

Coach Stotts gave a quick update on the status of McCollum:

“He’s doing well. He’s progressing well. He will not go on the road trip. He’ll stay back and rehab and get some court work back here,” Stotts said.

Stotts also added there is no new timetable for McCollum at this time.

Nets Injury Update: Allen Crabbe (right knee), Dzanan Musa (G League), Theo Pinson (G League) and Alan Williams (G League) are out.

Coach Atkinson said that Crabbe is still dealing with knee issues and there is no current timetable for his return.

Atkinson also discussed the plan when facing Damian Lillard is to throw different defenders and different defenses at him all night.

Hear from Coach Atkinson right here:

Portland Trail Blazers 'very secure' in tight playoff race

Portland Trail Blazers 'very secure' in tight playoff race

The Portland Trail Blazers have just 10 games remaining before the conclusion of the regular season. With Portland winning seven of its last 10 and three-straight heading into Monday, the Blazers are now in prime position to lock down their spot in the 2019 NBA Playoffs. 

The Blazers could clinch their playoff spot for the sixth-straight season as early as tonight, when the Blazers host the Brooklyn Nets in Portland. 

Trail Blazers Insider Dwight Jaynes joined Dan Sheldon and Curtis Long on Rip City Mornings to share his thoughts on Portland's playoff seeding and what team he doesn't want to see the Blazers play in the first round.

Take a listen to the clip above. 

Rip City Rewind: Everything you might have missed as the Blazers fell to the Spurs

Rip City Rewind: Everything you might have missed as the Blazers fell to the Spurs

Portland just keeps on winning.

In seven of the last nine games, the Trail Blazers have come away victorious. On Saturday against the Detroit Pistons, Portland looked to stick to its winning ways, and once again, they prevailed. Using a 14-3 run down the stretch, the Blazers finished off the Pistons in the final two minutes to come away with a 117-112 win, Portland’s third-straight victory.

Here’s a look at everything you might have missed as the Blazers beat the Pistons.

The Trail Blazers just about got winning performances from everyone on the team.

Damian Lillard led the way with 28 points, Al Farouq-Aminu added a season-high 22 points and Jusuf Nurkic had 15 points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Enes Kanter also came away with 10 points and seven rebounds, while Zach Collins and Seth Curry added energy plays with a combined 25 points and nine rebounds for the Trail Blazers.

Dwight Jaynes broke down the Trail Blazers terrific outing: Trail Blazers, Damian Lillard overwhelm Pistons down the stretch

Saturday was Aminu’s night. With the game on the line and seconds ticking off the clock, Aminu snagged a crucial rebound followed up by a 9-foot bank shot to seal the deal for Portland.

The Blazers big finished with a season-high 22 points. He has now reached double figures for the second time in the last three games.

Jamie Hudson noted Chief’s improved game: Confidence is high with Al-Farouq Aminu's ball handling... and it's showing

Following the game, Jamie shared her initial reactions to the Blazers win over the Pistons: Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers win over the Detroit Pistons

Portland Trail Blazers vs. Brooklyn Nets: How and Where to Watch

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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Brooklyn Nets: How and Where to Watch

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your Blazers and stream the games easily on your device.



Where to Watch: NBC Sports Northwest

Where to Watch on the go: Stream the game live on the new MyTeams App

Tip-Off Time: 7:00 p.m. 

Point spread: Portland -6

NBCS NW Coverage: Blazers Outsiders Pregame Show (6:30 p.m.), Blazers Outsiders Postgame Show (immediately after the game). 

Radio: 620AM Rip City Radio



Portland has listed CJ McCollum (left knee) as out for Monday’s game vs. Brooklyn.

For the Nets, Allen Crabbe (right knee), Dzanan Musa (G League), Theo Pinson (G League) and Alan Williams (G League) are out.



Dwight Jaynes: Trail Blazers, Damian Lillard overwhelm Pistons down the stretch

Jamie Hudson: Confidence is high with Al-Farouq Aminu's ball handling... and it's showing

Mike Richman: Game opening plays have become a quiet competition for the Trail Blazers

VIDEO: Highlights: Late run rallies Blazers past Pistons for win

VIDEO: Aminu comes up "huge" for the Blazers


Download the brand new MyTeams app today - This is the app for everything Blazers: games, highlights, articles, podcasts and more from your NBC Sports Northwest Blazers team.

Game opening plays have become a quiet competition for the Trail Blazers

Game opening plays have become a quiet competition for the Trail Blazers

Just over 30 seconds into the game, the Dallas Mavericks had already earned a subtle win against the Portland Trail Blazers, and Rick Carlisle glanced at Terry Stotts to make sure he knew it.

The two coaches caught eyes and smiled at each other. It was 2-0 Dallas and the ‘Scout Game’ had officially been won by the Mavericks.

This season Stotts started a new tradition with the Blazers, letting whichever assistant coach build’s the scouting report for that night’s opponent draw up the first play of the game. When Stotts told Carlisle about giving assistants the first play of the night, Carlisle immediately adopted it for his Mavericks staff. So when the Mavericks stopped the Blazers on the first possession of the game and scored on the other end, Carlisle could celebrate with a knowing grin aimed toward the home team’s bench.

The first play has become a quiet rivalry among the Blazers assistant coaches. When games open with a successful play there will be high-fives and fist pumps up and down the bench. If it flops there’s sometimes exaggerated silence.

“I don’t want to say it’s an inside joke,” Stotts said. “But everybody knows that it’s that guys play, and if it works, everybody celebrates. If It’s a dud, everybody lets him know.”

The first play of the game is installed at morning shootaround. Although it sometimes looks like something out of the Stotts’ playbook, it’s created whole cloth from the mind of whichever assistant coach has been assigned the scouting report for that particular opponent.

When the players walkthrough it at shootaround at the practice facility, it’s the first time they and Stotts have seen the new play. The team will go over it again when they meet in the locker room prior to that night’s game, again with an assistant coach commanding the dry erase board to draw up the actions. Stotts is hands off in those moments, letting his assistants run the show.

Then shortly after tip off the entire team, and particularly the seven-man coaching staff, anxiously wait to see if the new set works.

“They’re always getting on us like, ‘Don’t mess it up’ or ‘Make sure you score,’” Moe Harkless said of the Blazers assistants. “It’s a fun thing we do. It’s pretty cool.”

Inspiration for the opening plays come from a variety sources. Sometimes it’s a play an assistant coach ran with a high school team he coached or an old set the Blazers used to run that’s been lost as personnel changes and the playbook evolves. But considering the playful ribbing that comes from a failed first play, most coaches keep it pretty vanilla.

“It’s always a mix of an action that we already do and then it’s like a new little wrinkle in there,” Damian Lillard said.

Against the Mavericks, the Blazers opened the game with an action they used to run for Chris Kaman, in part because Kaman happened to be in attendance at the Moda Center that night. Blazers video coordinator and player development coach Jon Yim drew up the play -- named "CK" -- for Nurkic, but the Blazers center fumbled the final pass out of bounds.

Blazers assistant Dale Osbourne had the scout against the Detroit Pistons on Saturday. He came up with a double-baseline screen to free up a Lillard-Nurkic pick and roll on the left wing. Only the Pistons double teamed Lillard, and he had to pass over to Jake Layman for a rushed three-pointer.

“He probably won’t get more first plays,” Harkless joked. “[The play] wasn’t really for Jake but he’s gotta take the fall.”

Some of the first plays drawn up by assistants can even get absorbed into the Blazers’ regular playbook. A first set the Blazers ran against the Lakers earlier this season is now a somewhat regular play call. And other actions the assistant coaches have experimented with in their plays have been adopted here and there.

There is some logic to how these game-opening plays get drawn up. Sometimes coaches want to get a particular player going early so they’ll draw up a post up for Harkless or an early touch for Nurkic down low. Al-Farouq Aminu quipped that he’s the only starter that doesn’t get first plays drawn up for him.

Stotts had let coaches draw up the first play of the game sporadically over the past few seasons, but this year he’s fully embraced the idea of: ‘Your scout, your play.’ That tradition has made for entertaining moments to open games when Blazers assistants are either wildly excited or playing it cool when their play call goes south in a hurry.

“It’s good just for having a little bit of ownership,” Rodney Hood said. “It’s a little thing between the assistant coaches. If we score on the first play everybody gets all happy for whoever the coach is. I think they keep tabs of it. I think they got an ongoing thing for the season, whoever’s got the besting scoring percentage or whatever. It’s a lot of pressure on the players to score.”

Trail Blazers, Damian Lillard overwhelm Pistons down the stretch

Trail Blazers, Damian Lillard overwhelm Pistons down the stretch

The Detroit Pistons had won seven of their last 10 games and brought their “A-Game” to Moda Center Saturday night.

But the Trail Blazers countered with an “A-plus Game” and finished off the Pistons with a flourish in the final two minutes to win 117-112.

Damian Lillard led the Portland parade, as usual, with his passing and his shooting. He finished with 28 points – hitting 9-16 from the floor, including 6-10 from three-point territory – to go with nine assists and six rebounds.

And down the stretch he was dictating the game, chapter and verse. But make no mistake, he had a lot of help on this night – the Trail Blazers got winning performances from just about everyone who played.

Portland trailed 109-103 with four and a half minutes to play but held the Pistons scoreless for the next four minutes.

Lillard hit Maurice Harkless knifing through the lane for a layup. He found Jusuf Nurkic for another layup and the game was tied with 1:58 to go.

Then, with the score tied, Nurkic made a terrific block on an Andre Drummond layup. Seth Curry found Lillard in the front court and Lillard nailed a 28-foot jumper to push his team into the lead, was fouled, and made the free throw.

It was downhill from there. Harkless passed to Nurkic for a dunk and then Al-Farouq Aminu jumped on a missed Lillard shot and banked in a basket with 4.1 seconds to go that provided the final margin.

It was a terrific outing for the Trail Blazers, who shot .544 from the field, .423 from three and outrebounded the bruising Pistons 42-29.

“A gutty and gritty win,” Terry Stotts said. “Basically we held them scoreless the last four and a half minutes. We made a lot of good defensive plays, big shots.”

You can find contributions everywhere:

  • Harkless had 10 points, four assists and some big defensive plays.
  • Aminu had a season-high 22 points, a lot of hustle plays and a solid defensive job on Blake Griffin.
  • Nurkic had 15 points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots.
  • Enes Kanter mixed it up inside with Drummond and came away with 10 points and seven rebounds.
  • Zach Collins had his usual quota of energy plays, as well as 4-6 from the field, four boards, a block and nine points.
  • Seth Curry was 5-9, had 16 points and five rebounds.

It was quite a night for the home team, whose interior passing was a thing of beauty.

“When guys draw double-teams or guys just drive and somebody steps up, we’ve done a good job of finding the open man,” Harkless said.

Lillard probably had four or five “hockey assists,” where his pass led to the pass that resulted in the score. And that’s indicative of how well the Trail Blazers moved the ball around.

“Those are the plays you have to make in order to take advantage of what they were trying to do,” Lillard said. “I’m not always going to be the guy getting the assist when they’re out so high on me. Can the guy I pass the ball out to, make the next play? We had guys doing that.

“That’s what I mean when I say we’re making the right plays. The ball is going where it’s supposed to go. When it does that, you take advantage of what the other team is trying to do. Tonight we did a great job of that.

“We’ve been playing the style of play we want to play,” Lillard said. “And we can sustain that.”

Pistons Coach Dwane Casey, who has done an outstanding job with his team, loaded up against Lillard.

"You're not going to stop everything," he said. "They're one of the top offensive teams in the league. And we made a decision that we were going to try to keep the ball as much as possible out of Lillard's hands. And again, you take away one thing, you're going to open up something else."

The Blazers play host to the Brooklyn Nets Monday night before heading out on a four-game trip to Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit and Minnesota.

Confidence is high with Al-Farouq Aminu's ball handling... and it's showing

Confidence is high with Al-Farouq Aminu's ball handling... and it's showing

The seconds are ticking off the clock.

It’s a three-point game.

Damian Lillard’s tough floater gets blocked.

Al-Farouq Aminu snags the offensive rebound and puts in a 9-foot bank shot.

Four seconds remaining on the clock when the Pistons call a timeout.

It was a crazy finish on Saturday night in Portland. It’s Aminu who seals the deal in a Trail Blazers gritty win over the Pistons by a final score of 117-112.

“I knew the shot clock was low, so I just wanted to get it off the glass. I didn’t want to rush it. Sometimes when you’re in that predicament you rush it because you’re thinking you’re going against the clock and I figured, let me at least make it and see if it was late or not,” Aminu said with a smile.  

Portland continues to play without CJ McCollum (left knee) and continues to rack up wins from a collective effort with role players continuing to step up.

Saturday night was Aminu’s night.  

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said postgame he was pleased with Chief’s “heads up playmaking,” which is a perfect way to describe that last Trail Blazers possession.

Aminu finished with a season-high 22 points and has now reached double figured for the second time in the last three games. His previous high was 20 points, which he had reached twice this season.

Is there a variable to Aminu’s game that people aren’t talking about when it comes to him getting more buckets?

How about his ball handling skills?

Coach Stotts has no doubt that this is one aspect of Chief’s game that has changed this year.

“I think it’s pretty obvious -- his ball handling has really improved this year. He’s made some nice drives throughout the season. He put a lot of time into it. He’s making some nice moves, whether it’s in transition or in the half court. I think he’s being aggressive when he has a chance,” Stotts said.

As Lillard shouldered the scoring load once again, leading the Blazers with 28 points and nine assists, he couldn’t agree more with his coach when it comes to Aminu’s improved dribbling.

“A lot better,” Lillard said of the difference he has seen of Aminu’s ball handling from this year to years past. “Sometimes when he catches it and they close the gap where he can’t get a shot off, he’s putting it on the floor and making plays to the rim. You know, sometimes in transition, he’s bringing the ball up and we’re getting a quality possession out of it, so it’s not like guys gotta chase the ball down and try to go get the ball or when he doesn’t have a shot, we’ve got to rush to get the ball,” Lillard added.   

Lillard also believes the mental part of Aminu’s game has helped too.

“When your mind is in the right place and you’re doing all these things, doing whatever you can for the team-- good things happen and he was on the good side of things, just because he was in it. He was in it mentally and it worked out. He was huge for us. He pretty much made all the big plays for us,” Lillard added.

Having your coach and teammates confident in you is always a helpful, but Aminu also trusts himself to it bring the ball up the court or drive hard to the rack.   

“It’s a thing that when you’re in the game and you notice that you’re not losing the ball… Obviously, you’re going to go to it more. The confidence comes from doing it… Just glad that it’s working,” Aminu said.

Being able to score a season-high after exerting so much energy on the defensive end with the difficult task of defending Blake Griffin also was noted postgame.

Maurice Harkless, who scored in double digits for the fourth straight game with 10 points, gave props to Aminu and how valuable he was on both ends of the floor. 

“He made a lot of big shots, especially down the stretch. He played really good defense on Blake and when we got switches he played good defense on the guards too, so he was huge for us. That last rebound and putback was big time too. It kind of sealed the game,” Harkless said.

Aminu had his good luck charm in the front row too. Maybe having your wife sit baseline can help boost the confidence as well.