The battle between No. 5 pick Jaden Ivey and No. 7 pick Shaedon Sharpe was cut short after the Portland Trail Blazers rookie suffered a left shoulder injury. But, thanks to a 20-point performance from Keon Johnson and a competitive game from start to finish, those who tuned in to the late-night 81-78 loss to the Detroit Pistons were treated to an entertaining matchup. .
Brandon Williams picked up where he left off in 2021-22, with 15 points, four rebounds and four assists, and No. 57 pick Jabari Walker joined him in double figures with 11 points on five of five shooting . However, those efforts were upended by the Pistons bringing in their own double-digit scorers, headlined by Ivey’s showcase of 20 points, six rebounds and six assists. That said, here is a quarterly review.
You might have needed an energy drink or two, but if you found the energy to tune in to the Blazers’ Summer League opener, you were rewarded in the first minute. After giving up a thunderous backdoor alley-oop jam at one end, the Blazers came back with one of their own immediately. No. 5 and No. 7 picks Jaden Ivey and Shaedon Sharpe topped the list, but it was Brandon Williams and Keon Johnson who took advantage of the free publicity first.
Williams wasted no time building on last year’s aggressive style of play. Not that you’ll ever need that information, but last year against Detroit he led the Blazers to 49 free throws, tied for most in a game since March 13, 1999, and he provided similar form. here, with clever defensive rotations, helping his big get out of tough isolations.
Johnson, for the Blazers, was the star of the first quarter, scoring three of four for seven points. Most inspiring is that he produced in so many different ways. The the vision of the court was on display immediately; he had another smooth pass which was just out of reach. Maneuvering a pick-and-roll to get in place for an open shot? He did that too.
Among other highlights, the game seemed to slow down as it progressed for Sharpe, highlighted by that slick bucket.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: An inability to defend the 3-point line and turnovers proved costly for Portland as the Pistons were able to take a 10-point lead in the first quarter, with each of their starters adding to their highlight reel of the summer. This set up a climb relatively early.
There’s probably no point buying stock in the Summer League roster rotations, but for the sake of documentation, Shaedon Sharpe sat on the bench for as long as he felt remarkable. It could have just been a way to get him back in the flow earlier, but with as often as ESPN showed him, it was impossible to ignore. (Casey Holdahl suggested thisin the middle of the second quarter, and a real update was given later).
On the field, the Blazers struggled to make progress from that 10-point deficit, scoring just six points in the first seven minutes of the quarter. To the Blazers’ credit, the Pistons weren’t much better. Luckily, an interview with Damian Lillard took place at the same time – even in July he found ways to help the franchise – and it provided a needed distraction. They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas…and that could include this quarter’s tape.
At least the Blazers stayed competitive and played hard, and eventually got rewarded for it. Trendon Watford, although foul issues reared their heads again, put up a few plays, and Johnson picked up where he left off, continuing to make his point as the best player in this game. evening. During the second year, the game should slow down and be based on some of his streams, It certainly is. He stood out as a positive, despite trailing 41-34 at halftime.
For now, Sharpe’s smooth, pivoting midrange shot will have to be on the loop; it was confirmed early on that a shoulder strain would sideline him for the rest of the game. Anchored by their aggressive play, the Blazers have remained competitive. Brandon Williams, in particular, commands a note. He was born in California and plays in Portland. But he made the free-throw line his third home to begin with.
Back then, one couldn’t help but wonder if some of the trends from last season would see immediate progress. For example: how would Trendon Watford pivot from last year’s foul issues and 3-point issues? It is still a hard-hitting player and his box score show it, but those issues kind of stood out in the third quarter.
In their attempt to cut the Pistons’ decade-long lead to single digits, the Blazers found notable minutes from Luka Garza. Likely playing with more juice against the team that cut him just a week ago, Garza showed flashes of that offensive juggernaut we saw in Iowa, with deep post joints, a release fast in 3 points and power in the paint. Digging deep into their rotation, the Blazers actually made their biggest effort with Colbey Ross — a versatile Pepperdine bucket — and the Blazers’ 2022 No. 57 pick Jabari Walker, among others.
Since we’re thinking long term, how about some highlights from the Chauncey Billups interview to start the fourth one? He complimented Shaedon Sharpe’s “veteran pace” and “quiet competitiveness”. He spoke of his plan to bolster Anfernee Simons’ defensive mettle, as well as his belief that Jerami Grant will win “so many games” for the Blazers.
It’s somewhat appropriate that the Grant trade is the topic at this point in the game: Portland and Detroit have continued to help each other out a bit. tonight as well as trade turnovers that prevented one team from having an advantage over the other. Walker was positive on the stretch, hitting a 26-footer and a mid-range pull-up to cut the deficit to two; it looked like his play had earned him a spot in Steve Hetzel’s endgame rotation.
In the end, it was a tight game, with the trio of Watford, Johnson and Williams each getting key buckets, earning valuable late-game chops to keep the Blazers in a bucket. The latter two looked visibly comfortable in isolations and pick-and-rolls.
A few eye-popping opportunities – such as DiDi Louzada’s missed layup, an inability to contain Ivey and a failure to get the right look on an inbound flight with four seconds left – effectively closed the door on the comeback try. .
The score of the box
The Blazers will have the day off before facing the New Orleans Pelicans at 9:00 p.m. PT.