The Portland Trail Blazers have completed an improbable run to the 2017 NBA Summer League championship game. Despite losing not only two of their first three games, but also two of their marquee players, the Blazers looked increasingly comfortable and balanced as each game passed. Monday at 7:00 pm on ESPN, they’ll face Lonzo Ball (maybe) and his Los Angeles Lakers for the Summer League Championship.
Here’s how they got there.
Game 1: Blazers 72, Jazz 63
The Portland Trail Blazers opened up 2017 Summer League competition playing against the Utah Jazz. It wasn’t the prettiest effort ever but Blazers fans got a good look at first-round picks Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan, plus a 72-63 victory ... a good day in all.
Game 2: Celtics 70, Blazers 64
The Portland Trail Blazers played Game 2 against the Boston Celtics on Sunday afternoon. Fresh off a victory in Game 1, the Blazers came in hopeful against a tough Boston lineup featuring acclaimed rookie Jayson Tatum. Their hope was short-lived. The Celtics opened the game with a scoring barrage and never looked back on their way to a 70-64 victory.
Game 3: Spurs 99, Blazers 85
The Portland Trail Blazers fell to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 3 of Summer League. The 99-85 loss was punctuated by turnovers, a torrid game from Spurs guard Bryn Forbes, and a pair of injuries to key Portland players. Losing Zach Collins and Pat Connaugton cast a pall over the afternoon that not even a double-double by Caleb Swanigan could lift. Both players returned to the bench following their mishaps, though neither returned to the game. Afterward, the Blazers announced they would not participate in the remainder of Summer League.
Round 1: Blazers 88, Bulls 77
The playoffs in NBA Summer League isn’t exactly a do-or-die affair. With the consolation bracket and a guaranteed minimum number of games, it’s not “win or go home”, rather, “Win and play in the big arena or lose and play in a smaller one.” Tonight the Portland Trail Blazers showed that they weren’t ready for a dim spotlight when a brighter one was available. Down starters, but not downtrodden, the Blazers overcame injuries and the Chicago Bulls, advancing to the second round with a hard-fought, 88-77 win.
Round 2: Blazers 91, Raptors 85
Quarterfinals: Blazers 94, Spurs 87
The Portland Trail Blazers continued their impressive run through the Summer League playoffs, defeating the San Antonio Spurs 94-87. The complete and team-oriented victory propelled Portland into the semi-finals of the tournament. Jake Layman helped seal the victory for the Blazers, scoring 13 points in the fourth period on his way to a game-high 23. Four Portland starters finished in double figures. The Blazers held Summer League star Bryn Forbes to 13 points on 2-8 shooting, fouling him out in the fourth quarter.
Semi-Finals: Blazers 87, Grizzlies 82
The Portland Trail Blazers came into the Summer League Playoffs Bracket as the 16th seed, seemingly destined for a quick exit to the Consolation Round and the end of their run in Las Vegas. Five days and four games later, Portland now stands ready to play in the Tournament Final to determine the Summer League Champion.
Though they never say die, the underdog Blazers had to at least think it today, down 19 points in the second quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies. But interior play from Caleb Swanigan and Jarnell Stokes, great rebounding and defense, and a persistent commitment to unselfish offense brought them all the way back for an 87-82 victory. The Los Angeles Lakers will await in Monday night’s championship game. The Blazers have shown that they’re in for one heck of a fight.