Blazers Fail To Execute In OT, Fall To Bulls In Las Vegas
Despite turning in their best performance of the Las Vegas Summer League, the Portland Trail Blazers (0-3) still found themselves on the losing end Tuesday night in a 80-78 overtime loss to the Chicago Bulls at Cox Pavilion on the campus of UNLV.
Portland now enters the tournament portion of the summer league schedule with a game Wednesday at 5:30 PM against the Atlanta Hawks.
While a win would have been the preferred outcome, Portland's coaches and players were happy enough to have a chance to win a game going into the fourth quarter after suffering two blowout losses to the Suns and Lakers to start their summer league campaign.
With 13.5 seconds to play in regulation and the Blazers trailing 75-72, Victor Claver inbounded the ball to CJ McCollum, who was freed up by a Thomas Robinson screen for a clean look at a game-tying three, which found nothing but net.
"It was a good screen set by the big fellas up top, said McCollum, who finished with 27 points, six rebounds and one assist. "It's my job to knock down shots. I didn't really knock down a lot of shots tonight but I have all the confidence in the world in myself. If I have a shot I like, I'm going to take it."
On the next possession, McCollum blocked what would have been the game-winning shot by Bulls guard Marquis Teague, resulting in Portland's first overtime game of summer league.
Unfortunately, the crisp execution that yielded a clean look for McCollum at the end of regulation wasn't repeated at the end of overtime.
After Andrew Goudelock made one of two free throws to put the Bulls up 80-78 with 6.8 seconds to play, more than enough time to get a good look for at least a basket to tie the game, but poor execution resulted in the Trail Blazers not even getting shot off before time expired.
"I butchered that one," said McCollum. "We drew up a play. Initially Meyers (Leonard) was supposed to get a shot at the end. I passed it to Vic and I came off and I looked back and it looked like he was getting double teamed, so I kind of ran back instead of clearing out. I'll take that one. That's kind of my fault, poor execution."
"We just didn't execute," said head coach David Vanterpool. "Not to point anything out, we just didn't execute it the way it was drawn up. Not to say that it necessarily would have worked, not to say that we necessarily would have made the shot, but we could have gotten a clean look… It's just a learning point for all our guys."
But aside from the final result, Tuesday night's contest was a positive one for the Trail Blazers. Thomas Robinson (12 points, 18 rebounds), Victor Claver (ten points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals) and Joel Freeland (eight points, six rebounds) all turned in their best performances of summer league so far. It was an especially uplifting outing for Robinson, who had suffered from a lack of confidence after being traded twice in his rookie season.
"I been through a lot this year," said Robinson, whose 18 rebounds set a franchise-record for summer league. "It can mess with your confidence, it can mess with who you are as a player. I'm just trying to get back to who I am as a player and that's being aggressive, that's playing with a lot of emotion and letting people know I'm on the court."
After watching tape of some of his past performances, Robinson said he wasn't enjoying basketball the same way he had during his career at Kansas. His remedy was to get back to the mindset he had when the Kings selected him fifth pick in the 2012 Draft.
"I just had to find a way to get myself back to having fun," said Robinson. "I've got to find a way to get back to my old self. And that's talking and messing with other people and being annoying pretty much the whole game. So that's what I tried to do."
"He's been wanting to do so well so bad," said Vanterpool. "For him, being a monster on the glass is going to be important. Being a monster defensively is going to be important. And making sure that he's there to clean up, do a lot of the dirty work. He already has a lot more talent that a normal dirty work kind of guy, but he can be one of the best dirty work kind of guys in this league, I think… He came out aggressive tonight and that's what we want from him."
The same could be said for Claver, who started off Tuesday night's game by hitting a three-pointer and finishing a one-handed alley-oop dunk on a pass from McCollum. After missing Portland's game against the Lakers with a bruised right quad, Claver was anxious to get back on the court.
"I need to play because I came here and I want to play the last few games," said Claver. "I try to play with energy, to play fast, to have fun, because you play better when you do that."
With the preliminary portion of the Las Vegas Summer League schedule now complete, the Trail Blazers move into the tournament portion as the No. 19 seed. If they're unable to get their first victory Wednesday against the Hawks, Portland's summer league is guaranteed to be over by Friday. If they can pull out a victory, it's conceivable that they keep playing until Monday.