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Blazers Lose Henderson to Shoulder Injury, Collapse in 100-99 Defeat vs. Rockets

The night started promising, but ended painful in more ways than one. Here, we look back on the Blazers’ 100-99 loss to open the 2023 Summer League.

2023 NBA Summer League - Portland Trail Blazers v Houston Rockets Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

There’s just something peculiar about Portland Trail Blazers lottery picks and shoulder injuries during their Summer League debuts. A mere year after Shaedon Sharpe’s highly-anticipated debut was truncated due to a shoulder issue, the Blazers were forced to endure a little bit of déjà vu, this time in the form of No. 3 pick Scoot Henderson.

This, alongside injuries to both Keon Johnson (finger) and Houston’s No. 4 pick Amen Thompson (ankle) put dampers on what was an otherwise incredibly-entertaining Summer League showdown. The nail in the proverbial coffin came shortly thereafter with the Blazers, in a show of terrible clock mismanagement, fumbling a 99-95 lead with eight seconds to go, highlighted by Jabari Smith Jr.’s incredible game winner:

Below are a few other takeaways from the head-scratching 100-99 loss to open up play in Las Vegas.

Mixed Bag for the Sharpe-Scoot Connection:

Scoot Henderson has only been a Blazer for 15 days, but given the synonyms that we’ve come to associate him with — competitive, feisty, etc — it didn’t feel like a stretch to imagine him making a statement in regards to the shooting “concerns” that gave some executives pause when evaluating him.

You wouldn’t have known it if you only tuned in to the first 15-ish minutes of this game. Hollywood script writers couldn’t have drafted a better opening frame; mixing both confidence and ability, the No. 3 selection appeared incredibly comfortable on the perimeter, and looked to be on pace to threaten triple-double watch:

Henderson cooled off considerably after that scorching start, missing six of his final seven shots after the 4-for-6 start to this game. Nonetheless, Henderson showed more than enough to generate excitement.

At times, he and soon-to-be running mate Shaedon Sharpe appeared to be in-sync and unstoppable on the Summer League circuit. Sharpe struggled through both a rough shooting night (21 points, but on 7-of-21 shooting), but had a fun fourth quarter takeover attempt. Henderson’s final line wasn’t much more efficient (15 points on 5-of-13 shooting), though both had moments worth celebrating.

Paying Tribute to the Past:

The Blazers aren’t far removed from a 2022-23 season that saw them lose 18 double-digit leads, and multiple others that appeared virtually impossible to lose. Showing their lack of experience down the stretch, it looked oddly similar to the product we’ve grown accustomed to seeing.

Leading 99-97, the Blazers looked poised to close out the Rockets for a gritty victory. Houston got a lifeline in the form of Jaizec Lottie’s questionable alley-oop lob attempt, granting the Rockets two free throws. And then, with 0.6 seconds on the clock, Jabari Smith Jr. — incredible in the second half with 29 of his 33 over that segment — closed the game out with a cold-blooded Summer League dagger to the Blazers’ hearts.

Jabari Walker’s Year Two Jump:

It won’t be the biggest news to come out of tonight’s game, but Jabari Walker’s performance may have quietly been the Blazers’ best on this night.

There was some wonder as to how efficient he could be after shooting just 41.9 percent in Year One; tonight, he hit six-of-eight shots, including a much smoother-looking 3-point shot, on the way to a 15-point, 10-rebound, three-assist night. He also appeared noticeably stronger in his takes around the rim. Here’s to hoping he’s able to continue that growth going forward.

Injury Updates:

Here are the most recent updates on both Henderson and Johnson’s injuries, as of this moment.

Up Next:

Box Score

Portland gets back to work on Sunday, Jun. 9 against Victor Wembanyama and the San Antonio Spurs at 5:00 pm PT.