The Portland Trail Blazers have been ousted from Summer League tournament contention by the Atlanta Hawks, losing an elimination game 65-88. They will play in the consolation round tomorrow before packing it in until training camp.
The Trail Blazers looked sapped on both ends of the floor, shooting 33.8 percent from the field while allowing the 50.0 percent from the Hawks. Without Thomas Robinson on defense (torn ligament in right thumb) the Hawks’ front court scored with relative ease. Center Mike Muscala (14 points) and rookie power forward Adreian Payne (19 points) combined for 33 points.
It was rather disappointing that Meyers Leonard was unable to help, but not entirely unexpected. He was often given Payne as a defensive assignment, and Payne gave his namesake right back. Unaccustomed to defending a stretch-4, Leonard mostly watched him pour in only mildly contested shots. The Hawks recognized the weak link and exploited it constantly. Summer League is supposed to help identify areas that need work before the coming season, so I’m not too broken up about losing a barrel-scraping scrimmage tourney if it means a more productive focus moving forward.
This is not to let Leonard off the hook; a former lottery pick preparing for his third NBA season should be performing at a higher level, but it would be unfair to let his athletic shoulders carry all the blame. Will Barton shot an abysmal 4-19 (21.1 percent) to reach his 15 & 10 double-double, while C.J. McCollum (6-15; 40.0 percent) missed every three-pointer he took on his way to 17 points. The gears that had ground Portland to previous success slipped when it counted. But, again, this is Summer League, so “counted” is relative.
The real winner for Portland (if there was one) was Bobby Brown, who scored a game-high 20 points. The former King/Timberwolf/Hornet/Clipper has successfully increased his visibility, though to say it will yield another NBA contract anywhere is still a stretch at this point. Watch for him to play a larger role tomorrow. Trail Blazers Summer League Coach, David Vanterpool, may let the deep bench get some burn now that overall victory is out of the question, but we’ll see.
This game served as a stark reminder that although the McCollum, Barton, and Robinson function well as a unit, they cannot yet stand alone without support from each other. This makes sense in the context of team basketball in Summer League, but does not bode well if we want at least one of them to make a leap to relevance during the regular season. If the Trail Blazers want to eke out one more win, real adjustments will have to be made in Robinson’s absence. You can’t always shoot your way into a game, as evidenced by this one.