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Bayless, Koponen lead Blazers to Summer League win

In his NBA debut, Jerryd Bayless scored a game-high 28 points and hit a pair of free-throws with just 12.3 seconds left to give the Blazers a 78-73 win over the Wizards on Monday night in Las Vegas. Petteri Koponen added 19 points, 11 in the fourth quarter, to spark the Portland rally that resulted in the Blazers winning their first game of the Las Vegas Summer League.

Bayless struggled shooting in his first game as a pro, going 5-for-12 from the field, but his ability to draw contact in the lane more than made up for the poor shooting percentage. Bayless scored 18 of his 28 points from the charity stripe, showing time and time again the quickness and ability to break down defenders off the dribble that he displayed as a freshman at Arizona.

“I was just trying to be aggressive,” said Bayless, “that’s the way I play. I’m always aggressive. I’m always on the attack. That’s what I tried to do today and it helped me a lot.”

Bayless set the pace for the Blazers scoring 10 of the team’s 16 first quarter points. He continued his strong effort in the second quarter chipping in seven points in the quarter.

“One of the things we want to do is attack the basket,” said Blazers head coach Nate McMillan, who watched from the top of the stands while assistant coach Monty Williams directed the squad. “I thought he did a great job of not avoiding contact but creating contact. When you have a guy like that who can score but he doesn’t mind giving his body. That takes a lot of pounding on your body. And to get there 23 times is great.”

Bayless, who many are tabbing at the Trail Blazers point guard of the future, split time at the position with Koponen, but McMillan liked what he saw from the 11th pick.

“I thought he played within the flow of the game,” McMillan said of Bayless’ performance at the point position. “I thought he had opportunities and he tried to take advantage of them. But when he did have the opportunity to kick, he did. He allowed the game to come to him."

Koponen, who had three of the Blazers four assists, shrugged off a mediocre first half, putting on a display of late-game long-range shooting to get Portland back in the game.

“In the beginning I was a little bit nervous. It took a little bit of time to get into the game,” said Koponen. “The second half and especially when we were a little bit down I felt like, o.k. now it’s my time to show what I can do. Luckily I shot the ball pretty good in the second half.”

The Finnish guard hit three of his four three-pointers in the fourth quarter, bringing the Blazers back from a late nine-point deficit.

“We ran a couple of pick and rolls for me and they went under and I got the wide open shot,” said Koponen after the game. “It’s just natural that if I’m open, I will make the shot.”

Complete box score

Note: Nicolas Batum left the game in the fourth quarter with bruised ribs. His availability for Tuesday's game against the Sacramento Kings is unknown.
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