On a night where CJ Elleby struggled mightily, guard Emmanuel Mudiay stole the show, scoring 14 points as the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Los Angeles Clippers 86-66 in their second game of the 2021 NBA Summer League schedule.
Here are three takeaways from tonight’s game:
Elleby’s Forgettable Night
For the second straight game, CJ Elleby had a difficult time scoring the basketball. The second-year, Washington State product shot 2-11 from the field for 9 points, recording two turnovers and zero assists.
Portland tried to get Elleby going early, getting him multiple catches off screens around the elbow area, but he was never able to get into a comfortable offensive rhythm. He had difficulty navigating through traffic, as he often looked sped up with a sloppy handle. Then he struggled to create space for his shot whether he was shooting a jumper or trying to rise up over his man in the low post. Elleby shot four airballs in his 24 minutes of action and didn’t hit his first shot until the 5:59 mark of the third quarter.
Elleby showed signs of frustration by picking up a technical foul in the second quarter, but he also tried to shake off his offensive woes by affecting the game in other ways. He flew into the lane for offensive rebounds and showed high activity on defense, closing out on shooters and contesting drives.
However, with no premiere rookies on the roster, this summer league was supposed to be a showcase for the Blazers’ 2020 second round pick, a time for him to step up and prove his usefulness. With those expectations, Elleby looked pedestrian.
Mudiay and Beasley Show Their Experience
ESPN analyst Doris Burke called this Blazers team “the most unusual summer league roster we’ve ever seen” because of the level of NBA playing experience players like Emmanuel Mudiay, Michael Beasley, and Kenneth Faried all share. Those three players all proved why they had logged a large number of minutes in the NBA with solid performances, led by Mudiay.
The five-year guard and 2015 lottery pick looked like the best player on the court tonight by a wide margin. He scored 14 points with an efficient 6-9 shooting performance that demonstrated he could put the ball in the hoop in a variety of ways. Mudiay looked to be in complete control as he navigated his way to crafty midrange pull-ups off the drive. He shot 2-3 from downtown.
The guard also made minced meat out of his young competition with multiple drives to the rack, where he used his strength to body defenders out of the way for easy layups.
Beasley, the other NBA veteran, also had a strong showing with 9 points on 4-10 shooting. Although he cooled down in the second half, Beasley showcased his scoring chops. He used size to back down defenders and elevate over them for midrange jumpers in a style reminiscent of Carmelo Anthony the last two seasons.
Kobi Simmons Raises Some Eyebrows
Mudiay wasn’t the only point guard to shine for Portland tonight. Backup point guard Kobi Simmons actually led the team in scoring with 15 points on 6-10 shooting from the field in 23 minutes. Simmons went undrafted in 2017 and hasn’t played on an NBA roster since the 2018-19 season, but showed off an impressive burst to the hoop and ability to finish at the rim. He also had a pretty one-dribble pull-up jumper to close out the first quarter.
Portland has struggled to find a proper backup point guard in recent seasons, often handing off second-unit facilitating duties to CJ McCollum. Simmons’ and Mudiay’s performances tonight may be eye-catching for the front office.
Other Game Notes
- Guard Anthonio Blakeney wasn’t as scorching hot as he was during his 27-point performance in the first game of Summer League, but he kept some of his offensive mojo going. Blakeney scored 12 points on 5-11 shooting, knocking down two three-pointers.
- The Blazers’ second round draft choice Greg Brown III didn’t check into the game until the second half. Known for his dunking and athleticism, Brown also looked comfortable shooting the ball, knocking down a three-pointer for his first points of the game. He scored 9 points on 4-6 shooting in only 14 minutes.
The Blazers play again Thursday afternoon, facing the Indiana Pacers at 3:00 pm PT.