McCollum Shines In Loss To Suns
Despite a game-high 22 points from rookie CJ McCollum, the Portland Trail Blazers began their 2013 Las Vegas Summer League schedule with a 82-69 loss to the Phoenix Suns Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of UNLV.
The Trail Blazers took a 35-32 lead into the halftime break, but poor shooting and porous defense allowed the Suns, lead by Markieff Morris (18 points, five rebounds) and Marcus Morris (14 points, five rebounds) to outscore the Trail Blazers by 16 points in the second half for the victory.
"Early on we played the way we wanted to play, played great defense, I thought," said acting Summer League head coach David Vanterpool. "I thought we were intense. Guys were excited, so that's expected, especially the first half of any type of situational game. As things wore on I think Phoenix turned up the defense in the second half and played pretty much the way we had started in the first half. We didn't continue that. We didn't match that intensity. When those things happen, teams make runs and they kind of stifle you on offense."
That stifling manifested itself in rough shooting games by second-year guard Will Barton (13 points on 5-of-17 shooting), second-year center Meyers Leonard (9 points on 3-of-9 shooting) and rookie guard Allen Crabbe (5 points on 2-of-7 shooting). Vanterpool, himself acting as head coach for the first time since joining Terry Stotts' staff prior to the 2012-13 season, chalked up much of the poor shooting and mistakes to first-game jitters.
"We didn't even run many sets," said Vanterpool. "Some ATO (after time out) plays that our guys, I think that they should be aware of and they were the ones that may have made mistakes in those situations. So again, it was those type of jitters. And in the second half, again, when Phoenix turned up the defensive intensity, they got comfortable on offense… Hopefully we got those jitters out, we got all that stuff taken care of and we can be better tomorrow."
While his teammates might have struggled, McCollum, playing in his first game since breaking his foot on January 5th, seemed unfazed by his first NBA action, scoring in various ways while handing out four assists, also a game-high, as Portland's primary ball-handler.
"I knew I'd be able to score in the NBA, I'm not worried about that," said a confident McCollum post-game. "It's more about defending, keeping your turnovers low and finding the right guys on offense. I'm a basketball player and if you work hard, it translates to the NBA."
Saturday night's game was also the first for second-year forward Thomas Robinson as a Trail Blazer. Robinson, acquired in a trade from the Houston Rockets, finished with six points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots in 27 minutes.
"I saw a grown man a lot of times," said Vanterpool of Robinson. "Thomas really just has to dig the grown man effort all the time. He has to be consistent with his effort. His motor, sometimes it goes up really at a high level and then other times it starts to wain. I just want him to be as consistent as possible with that type of motor and intensity, but he's really strong down there."
The Trail Blazers won't have long to stew over Saturday night's loss, as they're right back to work Sunday at 3 PM against the Lakers. And while summer league is more about improvement than wins and losses, no one wants to start their professional career with an extended losing streak, even in the low-pressure confinds of Las Vegas.
"You want to win every game, but at the same time, you've got to learn from it," said McCollum. "This is my first full game since January 5th, so I've come a long way from rehabbing and kind of getting in game shape, so it's good to kind of get that game under your belt, kind of see what it's like to get up and down a little bit. I look forward to playing tomorrow."