VIDEO: Aminu's Block, With An Assist From Turner, Saves The Game In Charlotte
CHARLOTTE -- Al-Farouq Aminu has been known as the Trail Blazers’ best defender since signing with the team as a free agent in 2015, but this season, the 6-9 forward is also their most accurate three-point threat. A career 34 percent three-point shooter, Al-Farouq has been on fire from deep in his first 15 games, shooting 49 percent from beyond the arc, a mark that is not only tops on the team but second in the NBA this season.
However, Saturday night in Charlotte, Aminu’s shooting failed him. After going 6-of-9 from the field and 3-of-5 from three for 15 points in Friday night’s victory versus the Magic in Orlando, Aminu finished with just two points on 1-of-7 shooting from the field and 0-of-3 shooting from three Saturday in Charlotte. He even missed both free throws he was awarded Saturday night to cap off a forgettable offensive performance for the former Demon Deacon.
But when you’re a defensive impresario of Aminu's caliber, you always have an opportunity to affect the outcome of a game without scoring. He did just that versus the Hornets, blocking what looked like a sure-fire layup by Kemba Walker with 51 seconds to play and the Trail Blazers leading 92-91.
“That was huge,” said CJ McCollum of Aminu’s block in the fourth quarter. “He’s a guy, like I’ve said before, that does a lot of things that won’t normally show up on the stat sheet. He’ll be credited for one or two blocks tonight but that block saved us the game.”
Though Aminu didn’t do it alone. After Walker stripped Evan Turner at halfcourt and began driving to the basket, both Aminu and Turner sprinted back in transition to contest the attempt that would soon be coming.
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"As soon as (Walker) had the ball then we broke on it," said Aminu. "Just seeing how the play was going to develop right when I seen (Turner) running on the inside of him and I was on the outside of him."
While Aminu trailed Walker, Turner darted in front of him as he approached the basket in order to slow the Hornets all-star point guard ever so slightly, which greatly improved Aminu’s chances of getting the block.
“That was big time… we needed that,” said Turner. “I saw Chief behind me and I was just hoping. We did the universal read of just me trying to be a diversion, get (Walker's) attention and then Chief blocks him. Thankfully it worked and we took it the other way.”
Aminu's block didn't guarantee Portland's victory -- the Hornets had numerous opportunities to either tie the game or go ahead in the final 50 seconds of play -- but it end up being the play of the game for the Trail Blazers according to head coach Terry Stotts. In fact, Stotts was so impressed by the block that he showed the replay to the team almost immediately after they got to the locker room post-game as a way to praise the effort and show his team the importance of not giving up on plays, especially in close games.
"He felt like it was a big play and he wanted (us) to notice, so I appreciate it," said Aminu. "He was like, 'Stuff like that wins the game.' If they would have hit that layup, they would have been up, and now the game feels different, we approach it different and everything like that. At the end of the game, all we had to do was get stops. We've been trying to put our hat on defense and we were able to do that."