The Portland Trail Blazers, playing without their core players once again as they semi-openly pursue better draft position, lost 118-112 to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.
It was a competitive game that saw many lead changes, which was great to see from the young guys, especially 19-year-old rookie guard Shaedon Sharpe.
Sharpe scored a career-high 29 points but there was plenty to appreciate from him on both sides of the floor, as Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups explained to reporters after the game.
I thought he was really good. What people don’t know, Shaedon is really strong, man, really strong. So, he’s able to play defense without using his hands. And sometimes he gets a little – I mean, it’s just the nature, sometimes you get your hands in there, but he actually has the type of physique that he can, like, play defense with his chest a lot of times and body guys up. And he’s strong, man, he’s strong. I thought he cut SGA (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander) off a few times tonight and probably surprised him a little bit with how strong he is. I was proud of him. I was proud of the way he played defensively even when he wasn’t guarding the ball. I thought he was pretty locked into what his job was to do on the play.
It was a play at the end where – and he won’t be reading all the coverages that well right off, so I told him, ‘They showing with (Josh) Giddey. They’re not trapping that, they’re not switching, they’re showing with that.’ And that’s all I had to tell him. He use a little drag dribble and then turn the corner. So, I would have had to tell him everything earlier, like, ‘They showing. Drag dribble, still see if you can get downhill, turn the corner.’ I didn’t have to do that. I just kind of shared with him the coverage because it’s tough to see that sometimes and, you know, those guys are big, and he just kind of read it and did a good job of getting where he got to and got fouled there. But yeah, he did a good job.
Sharpe has started the last three contests in place of the injured Anfernee Simons (right foot soreness) and scored 20+ in each outing, averaging 25.7 points. If the Trail Blazers continue to sit their starters, we could be in for more of the same. Sharpe has looked like the player Portland hoped he would be in extended minutes.
The Blazers are back in action tonight against the New Orleans Pelicans at 7:00 p.m.