Summer League Diary Day Five: Rockets vs. Blazers
LAS VEGAS - Welcome once again to the live blog from Las Vegas, where it’s been just another slow, boring day in Rockets land. I mean seriously, can’t this team ever generate a little news every once in awhile (Hopefully your sarcasm detector’s switch is in the ‘on’ position)?
On a much more serious note, today’s showdown versus Portland should be one of the summer from a Rockets’ perspective since it offers some particularly delectable matchups, not the least of which is 2011 first rounder Donatas Motiejunas going head-to-head with the 11th overall selection of the 2012 draft, Meyers Leonard. For what it’s worth, D-Mo is doing work early on, taking it right at Leonard for three buckets, one of them an absolute blow-by for an easy lay-in. Six points and two boards for Motiejunas in the opening six minutes, before he was summoned to the bench after collecting his second foul.
Continue to love seeing Royce White as a playmaker from the elbow or in the low post. His decision making there is just impeccable and his passing seems to always lead to good looks for his teammates. And no sooner did I type that sentence then White whipped in a pass from the perimeter to Motiejunas (back in the game late first quarter), who promptly faked Leonard out of his shoes for another layup.
End of first quarter: Blazers 28 – Rockets 24
Terrence Jones is just a ridiculous physical specimen. But he’s much more than just an athlete; his skill level is so very impressive for a man his size. As always, it’s important to keep all things summer league in perspective, but Jones’ comfort level with the ball in his hands both running the break and on the wing certainly lends credence to the idea that he’ll be able to play some small forward in a pinch (at the very least) even during the early stages of his career. I mentioned this several times during our film session series on the Rockets’ rookies, but positional versatility is an invaluable currency in today’s NBA. Jones and White really fit the bill in that regard.
Ho hum, Jeremy Lamb is lighting up the scoreboard at a point-per-minute pace once again. His scoring is already old hat by now. Can’t wait to see how his game translates when he steps up in class. He’s proven to be absolutely unstoppable here in Vegas. 16 points in 16 minutes this half for Lamb.
Royce White is putting on a show with his passing late in the second quarter. His vision and basketball IQ may already be at an elite level. He got off to a slow start to summer league, but fans are now seeing what the Rockets were so excited to get him on draft night (and why so many teams were so disappointed to see him escape their grasp). Five boards and five assists for the Iowa State product.
Halftime: Rockets 51 – Blazers 46
Apparently it’s Terrence Jones’ turn in the third quarter. After D-Mo, Lamb and White monopolized most of the spotlight in the first half, the former Kentucky Wildcat is running wild right now. In mere minutes, Jones has already doubled his scoring output from the first half (he’s at 18 and counting now), and is absolutely murdering the Blazers in the open court and on the glass.
Actually, the entire Rockets team is killing Portland in transition. With White and Scott Machado leading the break and Jones, Motiejunas and Lamb filling the lanes, the Rockets seem to simply have too much speed and athleticism for the Blazers to handle.
Appropriately enough, the quarter ended with a Machado made three off a White pass in transition, but after initially ruling the basket counted, the refs decided to wave it off. Too bad there’s no video review here in Vegas, but for what it’s worth it did appear as if the officials made the right call.
End of third quarter: Rockets 78 – Blazers 70
Blazers are making a comeback here in the fourth quarter behind their own wildly impressive rookie Damian Lillard. Liked him heading into the draft; starting to love him after seeing him live a couple times. As advertised, he’s more of a scoring one rather than a pure point right now, but his combination of shooting prowess and finishing ability is something else.
The Rockets, though have been the superior team from the start of the second quarter on and they flexed their muscle down the stretch once more to put this away. Houston’s transition game has been lethal all night and appropriately enough the Rockets put the icing on the cake with a spectacular spinning pass for Machado to White for an emphatic slam to put the Blazers away.
These are the kind of games that rightfully get fans pumped for the future as every single high profile prospect delivered the goods. As always, we have to give the “it’s only summer league” disclaimer, but these kids belong; of that there is no doubt.
Final: Rockets 99 – Blazers 88
Notable numbers: Terrence Jones: 24 points, 12 rebounds; Jeremy Lamb: 23 points, 6 boards; Donatas Motiejunas: 20 points, 12 rebounds; Royce White: 6 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists