Whether in free agency or the NBA Summer League, the San Antonio Spurs have the Portland Trail Blazers' number this summer. After prying LaMarcus Aldridge away from Portland, the Spurs added insult to injury by edging the Blazers 79-75 in a matinée showdown at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas. Despite shooting 50 percent and getting a big game from Noah Vonleh, the Blazers were undone by turnovers and fell to 1-2 in the 2015 NBA Summer League.
The Blazers were slightly out of sync coming out of the gate, and more than three minutes passed before Allen Crabbe buried a jumper to give Portland their first field goal. However, suffocating early defense kept the Blazers afloat and helped them jump out to a 14-9 lead and a 19-17 advantage at the end of the first quarter. As expected, Crabbe was active from the jump, putting up seven points in the first 12 minutes and even forcing multiple turnovers with his hounding defense. Noah Vonleh looked to have settled comfortably into Summer League play following an ankle injury, and even showcased an impressive dribble drive in which he attacked the hoop, displayed a eurostep, took a bump from the defense, and adjusted to drop in a smooth one-handed runner.
To begin the second quarter, the Blazers faltered with Crabbe looking on from the sideline. San Antonio opened the quarter with a 16-5 run and was moving the ball in an unselfish manner akin to the Gregg Popovich-led Spurs we have all come to know. However, mixed in with the Spurs' sudden dominance was a sight that was sure to make Blazers fans drool: Vonleh stepping behind the arc and calmly draining a three-point bucket. As the quarter winded down, a stretch of back-and-forth sloppy play that is commonly seen in Summer League games ensued. Tim Frazier struggled with accuracy all quarter long, and misfired on a pair of passes to Pat Connaughton before making up for it by rifling a dish to Connaughton for an athletic driving finish. Frazier then ended the quarter with a sweet hesitation move and gliding scoop layup off of the wrong foot with 2.0 seconds left in the period. Although the Blazers only scored 12 points in the quarter, a 7-1 run had them trailing just 34-31 at halftime. It may have been one of the slowest, least convincing momentum shifts you could possibly imagine, but by holding the Spurs without a field goal for the last 4:19 of the quarter, Portland crept back into the game and found itself in solid position heading into the intermission.
Allen Crabbe posted nine points in the first half, shooting 4-6 from the field but turning the ball over five times. Vonleh and Malcolm Thomas contributed eight and seven points, respectively.
The rhythm that the Blazers developed late in the first half carried into the third quarter, and Portland's big men took on a pass-first mentality that yielded dazzling results. Kicking off a string of pretty plays, Daniel Orton dropped a swift touch pass to Vonleh for an emphatic two-handed jam. Not long after, Frazier led a fast break and drew a defender towards him before tossing a perfectly placed alley-oop to Vonleh for another rim-shattering finish. Less than a minute later, Vonleh decided it was his turn to play the role of distributor, making a beautiful interior bounce pass to Orton for the Blazers' third dunk of the quarter. Still, despite the barrage of highlight-reel sequences, the Blazers surrendered a 6-1 run over the final 2:36 of the period, and ended the third quarter down 51-48.
The two teams became engaged in a back-and-forth battle in the earlygoing of the fourth quarter. Blazers fans may have been keeping one eye off of the court as well, as Vonleh was seen receiving treatment for an apparent leg injury. Luckily, we could all breathe a deep sigh of relief when the 19-year-old forward returned showing no ill effects or discomfort. Thomas and Connaughton each scored points in the paint to keep Portland close heading into crunch time, and the Blazers trailed 62-59 when Crabbe and Frazier checked back in midway through the quarter. A three-pointer from San Antonio's Jarrell Eddie gave the Spurs a 69-63 lead with 4:30 remaining in the contest, but the Blazers hadn't run out of fight just yet. Connaughton raced to the hoop and spun in a layup to bring the Blazers' deficit to two with just over a minute to go, and a Crabbe runner tied the game at 75 with 32.6 seconds left, but Jonathan Simmons put San Antonio back in front with a floater of his own with 18.4 seconds on the clock. With a chance to once again tie the game, Pat Connaughton got free for an open baseline jumper, but it came up just short. Kyle Anderson sunk a pair of free throws with 4.3 seconds left to seal the deal.
Vonleh had a standout performance for the second game in a row, leading the Blazers with 20 points to go with eight rebounds. Thomas pitched in with 15 points, exhibiting a consistent and fluid jump hook shot. Allen Crabbe added 15 points as well, and Tim Frazier finished with eight points and eight assists.
Turnovers were Portland's achilles heel all game long. The Blazers had 23 miscues in total, with the starting backcourt of Crabbe and Frazier combining for 12.
According the the NBA Summer League's points system, the Blazers earned a total of one point in the loss. The system awards a team four points for each win, and one point for having the lead at the end of a quarter (if the two teams are tied, each receives 0.5 points).
The Blazers will not get a bye for the Summer League playoffs, and will play their first game tomorrow. The opponent and schedule will be announced this evening. After that, they are guaranteed at least one more game, but can play additional games if they keep winning.