Trail Blazers

Jusuf Nurkic has best game of season: ‘The worst part is over’

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It was another Trail Blazers home game and another game that went down to the wire that resulted in a Portland loss.

In Friday’s high-scoring affair, the Grizzlies outlasted the Blazers, 130-128.

Scoring 128 points on most nights would typically mean that team was walking away victorious. But that’s not the case when playing the Memphis Grizzlies who score in bunches and get out and run with the best of them.

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Whether it was scoring in transition or in the paint in general the Grizzlies had their way with the Blazers in the interior.

And despite Jusuf Nurkic and the Trail Blazers struggling to get enough stops down the stretch, Nurkic had his greatest game of the season. 

The big fella was a key piece to the Blazers’ offense Friday.

 

It was his best game of the season, that’s obvious. Probably the best thing was, offensively, he finished around the basket. It was one of his better finishing nights.

Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts on Jusuf Nurkic

Whether it was Damian Lillard and Nurkic, Norman Powell and Nurkic, or CJ McCollum and Nurkic, the Blazers starting center provided some necessary offense.

With so much attention put on Damian Lillard, the Blazers All-Star point guard started the game 0-for-6 from the field and after making up ground in the third quarter, he finished with a team-high 27.  

But Lillard wasn’t able to come up with that crunch-time magic Friday.

It was Nurkic, though, who recorded a season-high 26 points on an efficient 11-of-15 shooting to go along with a season-high 17 rebounds. 

“Personally I feel good,” Nurkic said postgame.

But Nurk added that his performance didn’t matter since his team lost.

The Grizzlies outscored the Blazers in the paint, 74-58. The most the Blazers had given up in the paint this season was 64.

“It’s on us. We know they play hard. They have a young team. Their transition points are huge for them,” Nurkic said of the various challenges that come with guarding Memphis. “We go in the game with a game plan and the coaches prepare us, but we didn’t do a job.”

The good thing is that we still had a chance to win the game, but when you allowed, I didn’t even know, 58-60 points in the paint that’s way too much.

Jusuf Nurkic

Following Friday’s loss, Nurkic also mentioned that with him still on a minutes restriction, the Blazers rotation is not exactly how they planned it to be when he is at 100 percent.

Nurk had his best game of the year, while still being held to under 30 minutes, with just 29 minutes of work.

Which is the most minutes he has played since returning to action on Mar. 26 following surgery on his right wrist.

The Blazers big man hinted at his minutes being extended even more in the very near future.

“I’m just right there to get off the minutes restriction. So I think the worst part is over. Now it’s just like game two away, I guess to be in a position."

 

With the Bosnian Beast rounding back into form, a 30-plus minute Nurkic will no doubt be helpful with 13 regular season games remaining and two more matchups against the Grizzlies over the next five days.