Portland Finishes The Summer Strong

  1. Written by: DHawes22  / avg. rating: 5.0

    Even without starting center Jeff Pendergraph (left foot pain), the Trail Blazers finished off the Las Vegas Summer League on a high note, winning convincingly over the Bulls, 83-69, to end the summer with an impressive 4-1 record under Coach Kaleb Canales.

    Similar to Saturday night’s performance against the Timberwolves, Portland was led by a balanced attack with four players scoring in double figures.

    No one was more impressive or efficient than former University of Nevada standout Luke Babbitt, who scored a game-high 22 points on 6-for-8 shooting from the floor as well as a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity stripe, pulled down 4 rebounds, and lived up to his reputation for having a nose for the ball with 4 steals.

    "I think he's getting better," said Canales of Babbitt. "Luke's like me in that we wish there was a game tomorrow so we can go out and play again. I think he showed improvements as the week went on in terms of his game and learning the things he needs to learn. He's going to keep getting better."

    Shaking off a rare shooting slump, Patty Mills found his stroke and dialed in from long range three times in the fourth quarter to push the lead as high as 16 at one point to put any chance of a Bulls run to sleep. Mills finished the game with 18 points on 7-for-16 from the field.

    "It was good, a grind," said Mills, who will leave Las Vegas to meet up with the Australian national team to prepare for the upcoming world championships in Turkey. "Fifth game of the week, it's tough to do. It's mentally tough because you've got guys out here who are playing for jobs and not knowing after summer league if they're going to come out of here with a job or not. So I think it's mentally tough, but guys pulled it together and finished strong in the second half."

    After a dominant first half which had the scoreboard reading 42-33 in favor of the boys from the Rose City, Chicago used an 11-5 run to storm back to tie the game at 47 apiece. It was at this point of the game where Luke put his stamp on the game and asserted himself, pouring in 10 points while not missing a shot in four attempts.

    The Bulls, powered by sweet-shooting Morris Almond (22 points) and big man Samardo Samuels (13 points, 9 rebounds), were able to once again chip into a double digit Trail Blazers lead during the opening minutes of the second-quarter with a 7-0 run to cut the Portland lead to three, but, as it was a reoccurring theme throughout the afternoon, the Trail Blazers responded with an 8-0 run of their own to end the half.

    As if they were riding a wave of momentum from the previous night’s result, Portland opened up a 12-4 lead early on and cruised to a 25-15 advantage after one period. While the Bulls saw the ball go through the net only four times in 12 tries, the Trail Blazers were as hot as the Las Vegas temperature, knocking down 10 of 16 shots.

    Stepping in for the injured Pendergraph was Ekene Ibekwe, who didn’t disappoint. Ibekwe showed his promise as a big-time shot blocker on the NBA level by backing up a five block performance earlier in the week with 4 more rejections this afternoon. Ekene also chipped in seven and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds.

    Arguably the most consistent member of the Trail Blazers Summer League team, Armon Johnson had yet another of his famous ‘under-the-radar’ type performances by racking up 12 points on 5-for-10 shooting, handing out a game-high six while only committing one turnover, and maintaining his defensive prowess on the Chicago backcourt.

    "I think this last game went pretty good basically because we came out with a win," said Johnson. "Everybody finished healthy, nobody really got hurt, so it was good. As for summer league overall, I think it went pretty well. Got to learn a lot on the fly and had some great teammates to learn a lot with."

    Although the Trail Blazers didn’t reach their goal of going undefeated this Summer League, veterans Cunningham, Mills, and Pendergraph have to be leaving Las Vegas with a good taste in their mouths as this will be the last competitive game action they all will see until pre-season gets rolling in October.

    "The guys were just professional about it the whole week," said Canales. "They came to work every day. We put our hardhat on everyday like we wanted to do and they did it and they carried it out and I'm really just happy for them and happy for us as a team."

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