The Atlanta Hawks defeated the Portland Trail Blazers, 88-65, in Game 4 of Summer League at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas on Thursday. Portland fell to 2-2 with the loss and is now eliminated from the championship bracket.
Coaches can cut into their players with hacksaws or scalpels, and both were wielded by the Blazers' staff after an uninspired showing in this blowout loss to a Hawks team they had hammered just two days ago.
It was Blazers assistant coach David Vanterpool who went full lumberjack, saying four separate times in less than two minutes that his players either needed to respect the game or that they hadn't respected the game. As if those repeated implications weren't enough, especially considering the scoreboard and the impotent offensive performance, Vanterpool played a card you don't hear too often.
"I'm not sure if [the Hawks] had extra motivation or if we had an air of arrogance," he declared.
There was plenty of arrogance to be found in the stat sheet: 14 turnovers against only nine assists, poor shot selection that led to 34 percent shooting, inattentive perimeter defense that helped the Hawks shoot 53 percent from deep, and a general lack of effort that produced a grand total of two steals and zero blocks in 40 minutes.
"He's the coach," CJ McCollum told Blazersedge, when asked about the "arrogant" tag. "If that's how he feels, that's what he thought. I approached the game the same way. I don't celebrate when I hit shots, I don't drop my head when I miss shots. I try to approach the game the same way every time."
Vanterpool tried to walk back his delivery of that coaching curse word, arrogance, but he seemed to have told the world how he really felt. Any doubt about the coaching staff's reaction to the game was erased when Blazers coach Terry Stotts addressed reporters a few minutes later.
Calling his team's play "disappointing," Stotts took a milder approach that nevertheless cut just as deep.
"One of the things I'm looking for is consistency from the young guys," he said.
Arrogant or not, Portland's key players can't claim consistent results this week. After a tone-setting performance on Tuesday, Will Barton finished with 15 points on 4-for-19 shooting on Thursday. After scorching the nets on Tuesday, McCollum scored 17 points on 6-for-15 shooting, with no three-pointers and four turnovers, on Thursday. Thomas Robinson was a no-show because of a thumb injury, but Joel Freeland had no excuses for his line: one point (on 0-for-5 shooting), eight rebounds, six fouls and three turnovers. Meyers Leonard accomplished little again, which isn't exactly the type of consistency anyone is seeking.
"There are minutes to be had next year," Stotts reminded the small media pack, although it was clear that his players were his intended audience. Stotts would also stress the year-over-year progress he's seen from many of his roster players here in Las Vegas, but the underlying tone suggested that he had expected more, at least compared to what transpired during Thursday's ugly result.
The gusto that Portland played with two days ago was simply missing, and Robinson's absence looked to weigh heavily there. Barton was left without his chaos-causing partner in crime, the Blazers lacked a dynamic scoring option inside, and Portland's guards were forced to create too much one-on-one, which contributed to their poor shooting numbers. The easy opportunities in transition, often created by Robinson's motor on defense, dried up.
"Obviously we needed him," McCollum said of Robinson. "Not just offensively, but defensively. He brings a different element, not only to this team but the roster team. We missed his interior presence."
Barton, however, said that Robinson's absence was "no excuse" given how the Blazers performed in his absence.
"They just outplayed us, they were just the better team today," Barton mused. "They wanted the game more. It was a rough night for us. The way we played today was awful."
Portland was done in by 19 points from Adreian Payne, a surprising 15 points from Stephen Holt (who had it going from outside), and 14 points from Mike Muscala, who easily outscored all of Portland's bigs by himself.
The loss kicks the Blazers into the loser's bracket of the tournament, guaranteeing that their Friday game against the Utah Jazz at 5:30 p.m. will be their final outing this week.
More importantly, the defeat guaranteed that the Blazers will leave Nevada with the "mixed bag" tag rather than generating major positive momentum. The Robinson injury was a bummer, to be sure, but the up-and-down shooting performances from both McCollum and Barton are a bit unnerving, while the same-old, same-old stuff (in totality) from Freeland and Leonard undercuts some of the excitement generated by Robinson's gaudier numbers and Freeland's finer moments.
Still, it would be going too far to say that Thursday's defeat makes this week a total disappointment. Buzzkill, yes. Anything past that, no.
Random Game Notes
- Terry Stotts' full post-game comments are right here.
- I asked Stotts whether Thomas Robinson will be undergoing surgery on his injured right thumb, and he replied: "I don't know what's been released. I think he might be getting a second opinion and we'll go from there." Hmm.
- Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com reports that Robinson will likely undergo surgery.
- Stotts said that "hopefully" Robinson will be ready for camp, and he didn't sound concerned at all about it.
- Will Barton on the Blazers being eliminated from the tournament: "It's frustrating. Any time there's a tournament set-up, you want to win. I had my eye on the championship but it's over now. It's time to focus on the next challenge."
- In case you missed it, the Blazers have released their 2014 preseason schedule.
- This really has nothing to do with anything, but a few years ago I was introduced to the wonders of all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouses. If for some reason you are in the dark about those, as I was, you should definitely check one out sometime. Don't take my word for it, though. A trip to one this week led to a crossing of paths with Alexis Ajinca and a number of other fringe French players, who looked to be going to town on the spread. Need more convincing? Where else in the world do you get offered Filet Mignon and Bacon-wrapped Filet Mignon with the servers expecting you to ask for both?
- The crowds -- both fans and media -- have tapered off a bit as this week has worn on. Nevertheless, the NBA informs me that Summer League is tracking towards an all-time record in attendance, with huge increases in video stream views and other online interaction metrics. Monday's games drew more than 8,000 fans, setting a new single-day record.
- Dennis Schroder continued to have some of the drunkest-looking turnovers I've ever seen in my life.
- As far as the "arrogant" tag, the Blazers started this game in a totally different manner than the last one. Their body language looked at least slightly overconfident and they definitely appeared caught off guard by Atlanta's early play. They just never recovered and found themselves done in by Atlanta's quality outside shooting.
- The final game of Summer League is traditionally used to play some of the deeper bench guys who didn't get a shot earlier in the games. Portland has played its roster players, plus Bobby Brown, the vast majority of the minutes. We'll see if that changes on Friday. Leonard, for one, can use all the minutes he can handle.
- Here are the game highlights.
David Vanterpool's Post-Game Comments
I woke up this morning, I'm alright. I watched it, it happened, we have another day tomorrow to correct it.
Hawks played motivated
Obviously they should be. Whenever you have a situation where a team beats you the first time, I'm sure they felt we beat them handily. You want to try to rectify that, if you get another opportunity you come out with extra motivation. I'm not sure if they had extra motivation or if we had an air of arrogance I would say. For us, it's very important that we respect the game of basketball.
What didn't you see?
I didn't see a respect for the game. No matter who you are playing against when you cross the lines, the game is serious. The game will humble you quickly. A guy that maybe you think can't make a shot, makes a bunch of shots. A guy that you think isn't better than you, does everything against you. All of a sudden, things you thought you could do easily, they just don't happen. I saw us not respecting the game like I would have liked to. It's disappointing, but we have an opportunity to rectify that tomorrow.
Arrogance -- was that shot selection, defensive intensity?
I don't know if it was us being arrogant per se, I mean I was just using that word. Please don't have that as the headline. In all honesty, it just comes down to respecting the game of basketball. It varies. Opponents change every day and every night, you always have to approach the game with a certain intensity, effort, love and passion. You have to show the game that you love it. If you don't, it will humble you. And we got humbled.
Offensive struggles after better performance on Tuesday
They didn't do anything differently. They didn't change coverages. We got open shots, we didn't make them. One of the things we have to get better at is not letting our offense affect our defense. When we were making shots against them, we were up on defense, our hands were active, we had a bunch of steals, we had a bunch of things happen. Tonight when we were missing shots, we had a different reaction on defense. We have to do a better job of not letting our offense affect our defense. Some nights you'll make shots, some nights you won't.
Thomas Robinson's absence
We definitely felt his absence. He gives a lot of energy, an immense amount of effort every time he steps on the floor. He's strong, he's also played a number of games especially during the season, he has experience. We missed all of that tonight.
Eliminated from tournament
It doesn't mean anything other than we lost a game and we have an opportunity to rectify what we did wrong tomorrow.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter