Following a forgettable opener the Las Vegas NBA Summer League, the Portland Trail Blazers looked to put the past behind them, but ended up re-living it, falling to the San Antonio Spurs 85-69 for its second straight loss to begin the exhibition tournament.
The Blazers welcomed the return of Shabazz Napier and Cliff Alexander to the starting lineup, both of whom sat out Saturday's loss to the Suns; while neither provided a big scoring punch, their presence seemed to ground the offense from "utter chaos" to something that at least resembled basketball strategy.
Noah Vonleh found success early at the offensive glass, Alexander sent one into the stands and Pat Connaughton threw down a tomahawk jam in traffic that should make the state of Massachusetts proud. Not much else was doing, though, as Portland struggled through a 3/18 opening period from the field, going scoreless over the final four minutes. Rookie Jake Layman checked in and knocked down a corner three, but was otherwise quiet.
The regulars restored a bit of order upon their return in the second quarter, but the Spurs stayed hot and held onto a comfortable lead behind Kyle Anderson's 15 points.
Halftime: Portland 33, San Antonio 48
The second half began with a scary moment when Napier, falling to the floor from an off-balance shot, collided directly with Alexander's knee, striking his head. Napier lay motionless clutching his head for several seconds afterwards, before being helped to his feet by team officials and exiting the game.. It was later reported on the NBATV broadcast that he had suffered a "scalp laceration."
San Antonio's lead grew as large as 19 during the third, but the Blazer bench slowly began to chip away and managed to close within just 11 to start the final frame. Portland pulled within single-digits on CJ Fair's free throws and had several chances to cut further into the lead, but sloppy turnovers and some ill-executed lob attempts doomed the comeback.
Vonleh stole the highlight of the evening with a vicious dunk over Cady Lalanne, and followed it up with two more impressive drives and finishes in traffic. He's been all over the place so far this Summer League, but tonight the good outweighed the bad, though, it wouldn't be enough to carry the Blazers to victory, as the Spurs cruised to an easy win.
Portland will get day off in Las Vegas before they take on the Utah Jazz Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. Stay tuned to Blazer's Edge for ongoing Summer League coverage.
-- Ryan Rosback | email@example.com | Twitter