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Las Vegas Summer League Media Row Report: Lakers 81, Blazers 63

The Los Angles Lakers defeated the Portland Trail Blazers, 81-63, at the 2013 Las Vegas Summer League on Sunday, dropping Portland's record to 0-2.


The Los Angles Lakers defeated the Portland Trail Blazers, 81-63, at the 2013 Las Vegas Summer League on Sunday, dropping Portland's record to 0-2.

It's not totally clear how one is supposed to react to a 17-0 run without Nolan Smith around to blame.

Game 2 of Summer League represented a step back from Saturday's Game 1: the positives were slightly less positive and the negatives were slightly more negative. Combined, that meant an 18-point loss instead of a 13-point loss, and longer stretches of impotent, turnover-heavy offense that were hard on the eyes. A five-minute portion of the second-quarter in which the likes of Lester Hudson and Lazar Hayward went off while the Blazers couldn't muster a single point sealed Portland's fate early.

"It was everything we did," Blazers guard Will Barton told Blazersedge. "[We] turned the ball over, it wasn't that the [Lakers'] pressure was that extreme. We were just making boneheaded decisions, man. Not executing, not using our heads. ... We can't have things like that happen. Especially trying to win games, 17-0 runs, we can't have things like that happen."

The biggest negatives -- bigger even than the 22 team turnovers and 38 percent shooting -- are the injuries. Victor Claver did not play Sunday as he nursed a thigh contusion. Following the game, he said his pain had subsided into soreness, and that he remains day-to-day. He sounded slightly better than neutral about the situation, and that's progress.

Barton, meanwhile, potentially dodged a bullet. If there was one Blazers player who could lay claim to clear improvement from Game 1 to Game 2 it was Barton, as he scrapped his way to a few early hoops and highlights, none prettier than an aggressive, smooth reverse lay-up.

Then, with a little more than three minutes remaining in the third quarter, Lakers guard Michael Snaer fell onto Barton's right leg, twisting his knee in an awkward manner.

"Someone stepped on my ankle," Barton recalled. "When someone stepped on my ankle it stretched my knee out, kind of hyperextended it."

The second-year Blazers guard lay on the court, grunting in serious pain, and he was eventually helped to the locker room, where he was diagnosed with a knee strain. It's unclear whether he will miss time -- or how much -- and he sounded relieved that the diagnosis wasn't worse.

"It hurt really bad," he said. "I was like, wow, I can't believe this. I was upset, real upset. ... It sucks any time you go down in a game, and you're losing. All I care about is winning, not my individual performance. Of course i want to play good but to go down while we were losing hurts."

Barton didn't undergo an MRI on Sunday and said any further testing would wait until after he gauged how he felt on Monday.

"I don't know if he'll miss any games or anything like that," Blazers Summer League coach Nate Tibbetts said. "He seemed to be in good spirits, it's always a little scary at times."

With everyone's limbs now accounted for, the basketball talk can begin, although that conversation isn't a pretty one. After a nice debut performance, CJ McCollum struggled more than he shined on Sunday, again finding life difficult with extra defensive attention. He finished with a team-high 15 points, but he needed 17 shots to get them, and the touch he displayed in the paint on Saturday escaped him a few times in this one.

"You're going to get different [defensive] looks every game," McCollum said. "They did a good job of jumping out on ball screens and things like that. I need to do a better job of maintaining intensity in the second half."

Still, there were nice moments, particularly in stop-and-pop situations, as a few Lakers scouts were left marveling at the fluidity of his shooting stroke. Other highlights: a physical finish after a bump from Lakers center Robert Sacre and an alley-oop pass that connected with Joel Freeland.

The book is now fully out on this group's offensive shortcomings, though, and much of the late-game play devolved into Thomas Robinson going one-on-one with little success. Robinson had seven points and 10 rebounds but shot just 3-for-12 from the field and committed five turnovers.

For all of his physical talents, Robinson couldn't seem to put together complete plays. A quick burst dribble would be lost to a bad attack angle. A hard aggressive take would be negated by a clear charge. A solid series of pump fakes would still see his shot blocked near the rim. A massive leap and strong dunk attempt would lead to the ball caroming out towards the three-point line. Multiple extra effort plays on the game's opening sequence would go for naught after three straight misses from close range.

Context is important for these struggles. Robinson came to Portland's minicamp late because of the free agency moratorium. He admitted Sunday that he expects to be in "much better" shape by training camp. He hasn't yet developed a real feel with any of his teammates and is working hard to produce most of his opportunities on the glass. The Blazers are open to the idea that Robinson should be able to experiment and drift outside a traditional comfort zone here in Las Vegas, given the developmental focus of the whole event and the makeup of the roster.

"I think we're learning about him, seeing what he can and can't do," Tibbetts told Blazersedge. "It's always different during the season when the best guys or the core guys are on the floor. Summer League -- when you come here, guys get to expand their role a little bit, do some things they've worked on. But once you get to the year, that's when LaMarcus [Aldridge] and Damian [Lillard] make these other guys look pretty good."

All of those factors acknowledged, there's an identity change underway. Robinson is coming to terms with a shift from being the focal point in college to being a helpful supporting cast member; he has opened his mind to the idea, and committed his body to rebounding, but it's a journey that will take awhile to play out.

"Pretty much being the garbage man," Robinson said of his expected regular season role. "I'm focused on getting back on the glass and attacking the offensive boards and defensive boards. ... Offensively I'm not really worried about it. If it's in the flow of the game, of course I'm going to try to score, but that's not going to be my focus in the season."

This change can work, given his standout athleticism and strength, but it's not guaranteed to work, and he's swimming upstream against questions about his focus, comfort and consistency. Before Robinson can evolve into "one of the best young power forwards in the league" he must first prove that he can be a net-positive while playing rotation minutes on a competitive team. And he must prove the ability to distinguish between plays that seem like good ideas versus plays that he can see through from beginning to end on a regular basis.

His new teammates are eying Robinson's potential, even on a night where so many of his plays went unfinished.

"He's a fierce competitor," McCollum said. "He does a great job with second-chance opportunities, he does a great job on the [offensive] boards and defensive boards. He's just a man. You can see it in the way he carries himself. Always positive, a strong, strong finisher on the interior."

Barton added: "Give him time, he's going to be a big-time player."

Random Game Notes
  • Blazers owner Paul Allen was in attendance again, signing autographs for fans before the game and conducting interviews at halftime.
  • Here's Allen on video with Dwight Jaynes of Allen on McCollum: "We were nervous during the draft because it was such a topsy-turvy series of picks there at the top of the draft. Picking tenth you really have no control over what's going to happen one through nine. We were nervous but then we knew after the pick went ahead of us that we were going to get CJ and I think he's going to be a very exciting player for our team. He has a great ability to get to different spots on the floor and create or make a shot. You can see in the game today, he can rise up and make shots from just about anywhere on the court, as well as make plays for others. It's exciting to watch him."
  • Allen Crabbe had one smooth finish coming off of a curl but finished with just seven points.
  • Joel Freeland's best moment came early, when he flashed open to receive a pass and finish in the basket area. He tallied six points and five rebounds.
  • Meyers Leonard is staying busy, if not always disciplined. Clearly enjoying Summer League's 10-foul limit, Leonard dished out personal fouls left and right while also finding some hoops in the mid-range.
  • The Blazers next play on Tuesday at 5 PM PT against the Chicago Bulls. Tibbetts said the team is looking forward to some rest Monday after a week of camp and two back-to-back days without much downtime.
  • Video highlights...

Nate Tibbetts' Post-Game Comments

Opening comments

I think we've done the same thing both games. We've come out and played [good], tonight it was 14 minutes, last night it was 18 minutes. We got comfortable and then they turned it up and we didn't match their intensity.

Struggling to generate flow whenever CJ McCollum doesn't have the ball

A lot of these guys are playing together for the first time. We've added guys through trades, picking up guys. We haven't had a ton of practice time. Sometimes, offensively, when you're not making shots, you're not playing as hard defensively. That's one thing we've got to continue doing a better job of is to continue to stay the course. This is going to take a minute. We're seeing some good things but we need to be better.

Thomas Robinson

Thomas is a high-energy guy. I don't think it's about numbers for him, for us right now. I think he had one practice with us before, he's learning about us, we're learning more about him. We believe he's going to be a good player but it's going to take some time.

Will Barton injury

I just talked to him. I think they rolled up on his lower leg. I thought it was his ankle but he said it was kind of his knee. He'll be alright. I don't know if he'll miss any games or anything like that. He seemed to be in good spirits, it's always a little scary at times.

Missing close-in shots

As far as making and missing shots, you're either going to make it or miss it. We put a lot of time in defensively in camp. We didn't shoot a lot. Hopefully, I'm sure the guys' legs are going. I'm sure they're excited about a day off. We haven't had a day off in six or seven days. That will be good to get their bodies and minds rested.


I think it's clicking at times but our offense is letting it affect our defense. We've got a good plan in place defensively. it's new, it's different than what we were doing last year, in terms of rotations and where we're sending the ball. The guys worked extremely hard before we got here. We'll continue to get better with it.

Thomas Robinson -- one-on-one

I think we're learning about him, seeing what he can and can't do. It's always different during the season when the best guys or the core guys are on the floor. Summer League -- when you come here, guys get to expand their role a little bit. Do some things they've worked on, but once you get to the year, that's when LaMarcus and Damian make these other guys look pretty good.

Allen Crabbe

With Victor going down, we're playing Allen and Will, one of those guys has got to play the three. Probably not a natural spot for them. Kind of break the ice. He's a big time shooter, he shot it really well in camp, he'll get a little more comfortable as time goes on.

Telling Crabbe to play with energy

That's the one thing we're challenging all of our guys with, to play with energy and effort.

Thomas Robinson -- defense

Defensively, just the way he can move his body, how active he is. Defensively, learning our system and being consistent in our system. It's going to take some time. I wouldn't expect him to have it all figured out by the time we leave here. It's good because we play the game and tomorrow he'll sit down with one of our assistants and watch the film. We get to talk to him about how we want to do things. He's learning about us and we're learning about him.

-- Ben Golliver | | Twitter