The reigning NBA Summer League champion Portland Trail Blazers started off hot, but gave up the lead in the third quarter and couldn’t overcome the Utah Jazz in the fourth in a 97-93 loss. Anfernee Simons was electric for Portland, scoring 35 points on 13 of 18 shooting. However, on Portland’s final possession, Simons fell and turned his right ankle. He eventually got up and looked ok, but Blazer’s Edge will have further coverage of the injury.
- Anfernee Simons doesn’t care about your feelings. The second-year guard started off strong, going 5 for 5 from deep in the first quarter. They weren’t just spot up threes, either. They were pull up, in your face, try and stop me threes. And it wasn’t just threes: he finished in traffic well and had some nice shots around the rim. He had 21 points at the half and finished with 35 points. As Dan Dakich pointed out while also butchering his last name (Nice, Dan), he looks like he’s 10 years old. My working theory is that his baby face lulls defenders into a false sense of security only for Simons to obliterate their hopes and dreams. Simons isn’t perfect; he needs to take better care of the ball and even though he has a good feel for the game, his handle is not very tight (Two assists to four turnovers). Even so, he’s looking more and more like a guy ready to contribute off the bench for Portland. Also, this dunk:
- Don’t force it, Gary! I’m a fan of Gary Trent Jr. I am not a fan of the litany of contested fade away mid-range jumpers he tried to unleash on Utah. He was 0 for 6 in the first half and often stopped the offense dead in its tracks. He finished with 12 points on 4 of 15 shooting with eight rebounds and five assists. Trent Jr. did great in game two when he played within the flow of the offense and was helping distribute the ball as well. When he did that, like in the second half of this game with some big threes and the nice alley-oop pass to Simons, Portland played significantly better. When Trent Jr. doesn’t try to go solo, like he unfortunately did for the Blazers towards the end of the game, he looks really good. When he’s acting as the team’s primary distributor and not forcing it, this team is way more efficient. More of that Gary and less of the contested mid-range Gary would better benefit this Summer League squad and potentially the Blazers in the regular season.
- What to do with Little. It’s interesting to watch what the Summer League staff does with first round draft pick Nassir Little. I thought he played fine; he put up four points and three boards and played with a lot of energy on both ends, showing off his athleticism at many different points. He still can’t create a shot on offense, but that’s not going to be fixed in two Summer League games. What stands out more than anything is how they used him. He has rarely played minutes with both Trent Jr. and Simons and often gets saddled with bench guys who are trying so hard to get on a roster they forget Little exists. When he played with the starters, he seemed to play a lot more confidently. Even if he can’t do much offensively right now, seeing him do more with Simons and Trent Jr. would benefit him a lot more. I also like the coaches have told him to let it fly from three even if doesn’t go in always (or ever, since he went 0-4 from outside). He needs to improve his shooting and there’s no better time to get reps than in Summer League. Also, THIS DUNK!
- Random thoughts . Dakich and Ryan Ruocco clung to the strange yet somewhat interesting fact that Utah shooting specialist Tanner McGrew, who had 17 points on 5 of 8 shooting from three, had a partial trombone scholarship at West Virginia Wesleyan College. It was annoying and totally non-Blazer related, but still, I’m impressed with anyone who can play the instrument because I frankly can’t fathom how it works. Also, Frankie Ferrari played for Utah. He was great in four years at the University at San Francisco and also has an all-time great name. Even if Dakich and Ruocco tried to ruin that too. Also, they totally missed the turning point in the third quarter when Utah took the lead and made it real hard on Portland. But at least they talked about the third-best rookie on Boston, Tacko Fall!