Another Swanigan Double-Double Not Enough To Overcome Slow Start, Injuries Versus Spurs

by Casey Holdahl
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LAS VEGAS -- The Portland Trail Blazers finished preliminary play at the Las Vegas Summer League with a 99-85 wire-to-wire loss to the San Antonio Spurs Tuesday afternoon at COX Pavilion on the campus of UNLV.

“I was a little disappointed,” said assistant coach Jim Moran, who is acting as the team’s head coach during summer league play. “We were trying to send guys a certain direction and they seemed to be going the direction they wanted to go, and that was a little frustrating.”

With the loss, the Trail Blazers are now 1-2 at summer league with tournament play scheduled to start Wednesday.

The beginning of Tuesday’s game played out much in the same way as the start of Sunday’s loss to the Celtics, with the Trail Blazers going down by as many as 10 points before the midway point of the quarter. But Portland would rally, as they did Sunday night, to cut the Spurs lead to 25-19 by the start of the second quarter.

But the Trail Blazers would suffer two injuries in the second quarter, with starters Pat Connaughton (strained left hamstring) and Zach Collins (right quad contusion) going down with various leg injuries before the halftime intermission. With both Connaughton and Collins watching from the bench, the Spurs scored the last six points of the half to take a 54-41 lead into the break.

Neither Connaughton nor Collins would return in the second half, leaving Caleb Swanigan and Jake Layman as the only available players currently under contract. Swanigan, already Portland’s best player through the first two games in Las Vegas, made the most his increased role, finishing the game with another double-double of 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting and 13 rebounds in 32 minutes.

“He was an elite rebounder in college and one of the things that makes him an elite rebounder is his desire to go after every rebound,” said Moran of Swanigan, who is one of three players averaging a double-double in Las Vegas. “As a coaching staff, we love seeing that. He doesn’t give up on any plays, he’s always going for the ball and I think it paid off a couple times. Just his physicality and his toughness is something that we definitely appreciate.”

But Swanigan’s rebounding, physicality and toughness weren’t enough to keep Portland close in the second half, with the Spurs taking advantage of Portland’s injuries to build a 22-point lead in the third quarter.

With Swanigan playing center, the Trail Blazers managed to fight their way back into the game in the fourth, using a full-court press to cut San Antonio’s lead to 93-85 with less than three minutes to play. But that’s as close as Portland would get, with the Spurs scoring the final six points of the game to come away with the 14-point victory.

Other than Swanigan, guard Nick Johnson, who saw increased minutes due to Connaughton’s injury, was the only other Blazer to finish in double figures with 10 points in 12 minutes.

The Spurs were led by Bryn Forbes, who finished with 35 points on 11-of-26 shooting. Olivier Hanlan added 16 points and Shyne Whittington had 10.

Next up, the Trail Blazers move on to summer league tournament play. Portland will play at some point on Wednesday, though their opponent and the time of the game will not be determined until Tuesday night.