Barton's Runner Lifts Portland To First Summer League Win
After losing their first three preliminary games in Las Vegas, the Portland Trail Blazers (1-3) bounced back in the first game of the inaugural summer league tournament, beating the Atlanta Hawks 70-69 thanks to a running floater by Will Barton with 9.3 seconds to play in overtime at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of UNLV.
With the win, the Trail Blazers move on to face the Phoenix Suns, a team they lost to 81-63 on Sunday, Thursday at 5 PM.
For the first three quarters, it looked like the Trail Blazers would be heading to the loser bracket of the tournament, as they trailed the Hawks by as many as 16 in the second half. But Portland's offense came alive in the fourth quarter, with Meyers Leonard hitting a three-pointer and Thomas Robinson scoring six points, including a layup on an assist from Barton with 26.4 seconds to play in regulation that would eventually send the gave to overtime.
"I'm happy for the guys that stayed with it," said acting Portland summer league head coach Nate Tibbetts. "We got down in the first half and just kind of kept competing, kind of started feeling good about ourselves."
"In the past three games, we've been there, we'd start the game well, we'd get down," said Leonard. "Difference between tonight and the previous three games, we kind of started to hang our heads, we stopped playing hard, we wouldn't play defense, then we'd try to catch back up. Whereas tonight, we had more enthusiasm, we believed in each other, kept our heads up. Started to defend, started to move the ball better, got better shots on offense. We really got into a flow."
Both teams found scoring difficult in the two-minute overtime period. Portland would miss five consecutive shots to open overtime before CJ McCollum, who finished with 19 points on 5-for-16 shooting, scored the first point on a free throw with 23 seconds to play.
On the ensuing possession, McCollum fouled Dennis Schröder on a drive to the basket, sending the rookie guard from Germany to the line for two free-throws, which he would make, putting Atlanta up 69-68 with 17.2 seconds to play.
Portland called timeout and drew up a play for Barton, who had served as the team's primary ballhandler for much of the game. Tibbetts noted he called the play for Barton, who finished the night with 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists after missing Portland's last game with strained right knee, because it was his play that got Portland back into the game in the second half.
"I wanted to go to (Barton) because he kind of got us going in the third, played a good third and fourth quarter," said Tibbetts. "Kind of wanted to reward him. He had been making plays and he came through in the clutch."
Barton received the ball at the three-point after using a Thomas Robinson screen to try and rub off former Oregon State Beaver Jared Cunningham, but to little avail. Barton then dribbled into Cunningham to create space then used a spin move to get to the baseline before lofting a right-handed runner toward the basket.
"I know (Cunningham)'s a pretty good defender," said Barton. "He's real explosive … He can beat you to the spot a lot, but I always knew I was going to get a shot off, just whether it was going in or not.
The ball bounced on the rim before finally going through the basket, giving Portland a one-point lead with less than 10 seconds to play.
Said Barton: "Coach drew it up just like that. Told me to come off the screen, rip it right and go. Don't even wait, don't hesitate no matter what. Just rip right, finish and make a play."
Barton was only supposed to play limited minutes due to a sore right knee, but after having lost their first three games, he pleaded with the team's coaching and medical staff to allow him to stay on the court.
"I told Coach before the game I wanted to go," said Barton. "The trainers, I was only supposed to play 15 to 20 minutes, but I told them, 'Look, if I'm going to play, just let me play, man.' It's the playoffs. I know it's summer league but I'm a real competitive guy. I like to win. I just wanted to be out there and make plays for my teammates and do anything to encourage them for us to get a win. It's still sore but just trying to play through it."
Atlanta's Mike Muscala and Cunningham would both get attempts at game-winners after Barton's make, but neither were able to find the mark, giving Portland their first victory in Las Vegas.
"It's real important to me," said Barton on getting at least one win at summer league. "I'm a competitive guy and I don't like losing. A lot of people watching these games and you don't want to just be losing every game. I don't like that. I don't care if I'm playing outside, I love to win games. If you out there on the court, doesn't matter if it's NBA game or summer league or you just playing with your friends, you never know who's watching. You want to win and play hard."