Blazers Bench Comes Up Big In Summer League Upset Over Raptors

by Casey Holdahl
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The Portland Trail Blazers ensured their stay in Las Vegas would extend for at least a few more days by upsetting the No. 1 seeded Toronto Raptors 91-85 in the second round of the summer league tournament Thursday night at COX Pavilion on the campus of UNLV.

With the victory, Portland, the 16th seed, moves on to the quarterfinals to face the No. 8 seeded San Antonio Spurs Saturday afternoon.

After getting off to a series of slow starts, Portland jumped out to a quick 12-4 lead on the Raptors, the No. 1 seed in the tournament. The lead wouldn’t last long though, with Toronto going on a 13-2 run to take their first advantage of the night at 17-14. But behind four points to end the quarter from Antonious Cleveland, the Trail Blazers were able to reclaim a 23-19 lead going into the second quarter.

With the Trail Blazers falling victim to unforced turnovers and the Raptors unable to crack the 40 percent mark from the field, neither team was able to pull away in the second quarter. Swanigan would hit an 18-footer with five seconds to go in the second to tie the game at 44-44 going into the intermission.

Portland would take better care of the ball in the third, but both Swanigan and Jake Layman, the only players currently under contract with the Trail Blazers with Pat Connaughton and Zach Collins sidelined due to injury, picked up their fourth fouls early in the quarter. The Raptors would take advantage, building a seven-point lead with Portland’s best players watching from the bench. The Trail Blazers might have lost contact were it not for three three-pointers from Nick Johnson, the last coming late in the quarter to cut Toronto’s lead to 68-67 going into the fourth.

Johnson didn’t let up in the fourth, scoring Portland first five points of the quarter to give the Trail Blazers a 72-71 lead early in the quarter. R.J. Hunter, Jarnell Stokes and Jorge Gutierrez extended Portland’s 9-0 run started by Johnson to take their largest lead since the first quarter at 79-71. The Trail Blazers would go up by 10 after a Layman jumper with 4:35 to play, and it looked as though they might pull away, but Toronto answered with a 9-0 run to cut Portland’s lead to one.

But Johnson would deliver again, hitting a 20-footer with 1:24 to play to push the lead to 85-82. He’s airball his next shot, but Stokes collected the miss and finished the and-1 layup to give the Trail Blazers a five-point lead with 18 seconds to play. Toronto’s Fred VanVleet hit a three with 14 secodns to play, though Johnson and Swanigan would make their free throws late to secure the upset.

Johnson finished with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting from three and 3-of-3 shooting from three to lead Portland. Swanigan got his third double-double in four games in Las Vegas, finishing with 13 points and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes.

Layman shot 50 percent from the field and three for 12 points to go with two blocks, a steal, a rebound and an assist in 24 minutes. Stokes scored in double figures for the second straight game with 13 points and R.J. Hunter added 11 on 4-of-8 shooting.

The Raptors had four players finish in double figures led by a game-high 31 from VanVleet.

After playing three games in as many nights, the Trail Blazers now have a day off before facing the Spurs in the quarterfinals Saturday afternoon at Thomas & Mack Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 pm on ESPN2.