LAS VEGAS — During the Portland Trail Blazers’ third NBA Summer League game, their motion offense tossed to and fro like the waves of an ocean.
For one half, the offense needed a lifesaver. Then, for a change of pace this summer, the Blazers executed sets more fluidly through the second half.
However, Portland’s contest against the Chicago Bulls came down to two plays. One executed to success — a CJ McCollum game-tying 3-pointer that forced overtime — and the other bombed at the buzzer as the Blazers lost 80-78.
“They did a pretty good job today,” said assistant coach David Vanterpool who remarked that the team ran its offense accurately 75 percent of the time on Tuesday. “I thought we did a good job of mixing it up.”
Through the first half, the Blazers shot only 41.7 percent and trailed the Bulls 50-38. However, in the fourth quarter, something clicked.
While the final box score reveals that the Blazers’ field-goal percentage dropped three points after halftime, Vanterpool noticed how players appeared to grasp more of the offense and even executed secondary variations of plays. For the first time in Summer League, four Blazers reached double figures in scoring.
“When we got to the second half, we got into our motion set (and) used some of the other options that we had,” Vanterpool said. “Those are all options that they have available to them. Maybe they forgot about them the other games or maybe they got tired and went to the basic stuff.”
The improved understanding of the offensive playbook — coupled with strong defense — sparked the Blazers’ 14-point fourth quarter comeback.
McCollum, who had struggled to hit shots through the night, redeemed himself by drilling the deep straight ahead 3-pointer to tie the game with 10.8 seconds remaining in regulation.
Moments earlier during a timeout, Vanterpool had drawn up the play — McCollum off the ball and starting near the baseline before running over a screen for the open shot.
“It worked. I wish a couple other plays worked a little bit better, especially some of the stuff we worked on,” Vanterpool said. “Maybe we should scrap all the stuff we’ve been working on and just draw things up and see what happens because it seems like we executed that a little bit better than some of the other stuff over the course of these last three games.”
However, the second drawn-up play failed in execution.
In the final seconds of the extra two-minute period, McCollum passed to Victor Claver instead of taking the shot. By the time Claver played hot potato with Meyers Leonard, time was up. Leonard actually nailed his desperation heave from beyond the arc that would have won the game, but the shot ripped the net after the buzzer.
“I butchered that one,” said McCollum, who finished with 27 points on 8-of-25 shooting. “We drew a play and initially Meyers was supposed to get a shot at the end. I passed it to Vic, and I came off and I looked back and it looked like he was getting double-teamed so I kind of ran back instead of clearing out. I’ll take that one. That’s my fault. Poor execution. But all in all I think we did a much better job today and I think it showed.”
Robinson on boards
Thomas Robinson showed his mean side on Tuesday.
Not only did Robinson pick up his first technical foul as a Blazer, he also controlled the backboard for a game-high 18 rebounds — a new team Summer League record.
Robinson, the 6-foot-10 power forward, patrolled the back line of the defense during the Blazers’ second-half comeback.
“He’s been wanting to do so well, so bad,” Vanterpool said of Robinson. “For him, being a monster on the glass is going to be important. Being a monster defensively is going to be important and making sure that he’s there to do a lot of the dirty work. He already has a lot more talent than a normal dirty work type of guy, but he can be one of the best dirty-work type of guys in this league.”
Robinson also finished with 12 points and four turnovers.
Barton rests knee
While Claver returned to the starting lineup after sitting out one game due to a thigh bruise, small forward Will Barton remained on the sideline.
Barton sat out Tuesday with a right knee sprain that he sustained over the weekend.
Although Barton said his knee has improved, the team still decided to rest him. Also, Barton said he did not know when he would return.
“It feels better, it’s still a little sore. We didn’t want to rush it but it feels better — a lot better,” Barton said. “I’m looking forward to (playing), I’m optimistic but you never know. I hope so, though.”