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Strong Guard Play Leads To Another Win In Las Vegas

  1. Written by: caseyholdahl

    The style of play at summer league, for whatever reason, tends to favor guards. That trend continued Tuesday night. Lead by strong performances from the starting backcourt of Patty Mills and Armon Johnson for the second straight game, the Trail Blazers once again pulled away late in the game, this time beating the New Orleans Hornets 81-69 for their second victory in as many games at the Las Vegas summer league.

    Summer league head coach Kaleb Canales shortened his bench to just eight players Tuesday night, giving both Mills and Johnson extended minutes at point guard as both players try to prove they're worth keeping around for the regular season.

    "They're different in how they play," said head coach Nate McMillan. "Armon is a guy who is going to use his body, pretty clever with the pick and roll. Patty, with his speed and his ability to shoot the three. So they're playing together but we want to look at them both play the point, have the point by themselves out there.'

    "I thought they were both great," said Kanales of Mills and Johnson. "I thought they complimented each other. They've complimented each other all week and they're encouraging each other and pushing each other. It was a good overall team game."

    Mills once again showed off the blazing speed with the ball that has become his calling card since playing for the Australian national team in the Beijing Olympics. He finished the night with 18 points on an efficient 6-of-9 shooting performance from the field.

    "I think we got off to a fairly slow start, so I took it on myself to pick up the tempo a bit, get us on the board and get us rolling," said Mills. "I think after that we got some momentum and everyone else started to pick up a little bit in the second half. It was good. I was happy with the shot selection and getting to the basket. I think I can still be a little more aggressive getting to the basket, if not getting into the paint and making the open pass."

    Johnson once against provided smothering defense on the perimeter while managing to increase his aggressiveness on the offensive end of the floor. He finished with 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting while handing out five assists and increasing his summer league steal total by three.

    "I think (Johnson's) seeing things that he didn't see in college and I think it's game-by-game and it's really practice-by-practice," said Canales. "He's got great pace to his game and I think he showed that tonight. He had a good game tonight and hopefully he can continue to get better, which he will."

    Johnson wasn't the only player on Portland's roster than improved for the first game to the second. Both Dante Cunningham and Jeff Pendergraph looked sharper Tuesday night, scoring 14 and 11 points, respectively.

    "Yesterday at practice we really competed," said Canales. "I think everybody competed. The guys that haven't gotten the time yet really took it and approached it as a game yesterday. They made the first team really work yesterday and it brought a sharpness to us that I felt we carried out here today."

    Next up on Portland's summer league schedule is a scrimmage against No. 1 pick John Wall and the Washington Wizards Wednesday, with a game against the Clippers Tuesday night at COX Pavilion. Tipoff for that contest is scheduled for 7 PM.

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