Blazers Rally From 19 Down To Advance To Summer League Tournament Finals

by Casey Holdahl
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When staying in Las Vegas, you never walk away from the table when you’re on a heater. That same adage could be applied to the Portland Trail Blazers run during tournament play of the Las Vegas Summer League.

After going 1-2 in preliminary play, the 16-seed Portland Trail Blazers defeated the 4-seed Memphis Grizzlies 87-82 Sunday afternoon in the semifinal of the summer league tournament. The victory, Portland’s fourth-straight, advances the Trail Blazers to the summer league tournament finals, where they will face the Los Angeles Lakers, the 15-seed, Monday night.

It looked as though Portland’s luck might have run out in the first half of Sunday’s contest. After defeating the 1-seed Toronto Raptors on July 13 and the 8-seed San Antonio Spurs on July 15, the Trail Blazers faced a 4-seed Memphis Grizzlies team that came into the semifinal undefeated in Las Vegas. Memphis jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead before Portland managed to find their footing, though the Grizzlies would hold a lead throughout the first quarter before going into the second with a 23-15 advantage.

That lead would swell to as many as 19 with the Grizzlies starting the second quarter on a 16-7 run, leaving one to surmise that perhaps fighting their way through much higher seeds during tournament play had finally started to take its toll on the Trail Blazers.

But Portland would finish the first half with a run of their own, theirs of the 16-4 variety, to cut Memphis’ lead to 45-38 by the halftime intermission.

The Trail Blazers carried that momentum over to the third quarter, outscoring the Grizzlies 16-8 in the first four minutes of the second half. A three-pointer from Antonius Cleveland game Portland their first lead of the game at 54-53 with 5:52 to play in the third to put the pressure on Memphis. The Grizzlies would retake the lead at 63-61 going into the fourth, though by then, the game was entirely up for grabs.

And in the fourth quarter, Jarnell Stokes and Jorge Gutierrez were there to seize the opportunity. Stokes, who has been integral to Portland’s tournament run in the absences of Zach Collins (left quad concussion) scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the fourth alone, while Gutierrez, whose playing time has increased with Pat Connaughton sidelined with a hamstring strain, added eight points and two assists. With Stokes and Gutierrez in the zone on offense, the Trail Blazers were rattled off a 9-2 run early in the quarter to take control of fourth quarter and the game. The Grizzlies were unable to answer, ensuring the Trail Blazers would move on to their first summer league final.

Stokes finished with a double-double of 22 points and 15 rebounds while also adding three assists, two steals and a block in 32 minutes. Gutierrez went 8-of-10 from the free throw line and 4-of-9 from the field for 16 points and eight assists, many of those of the highlight variety, while also grabbing five rebounds in 32 minutes.

Swanigan added another summer league double-double, his fourth in Las Vegas, with 15 points and 11 rebounds in 34 minutes. R.J. Hunter added 11 points and Cleveland finished with 10 points to round out Portland’s double-digit scorers.

The Grizzlies were led by former Oregon Duck Dillon Brooks, who went 7-of-12 from the field for 16 points in 21 minutes.

The Trail Blazers now move on to face the winner of the Lakers Monday night at Thomas & Mack Arena on the campus of UNLV. Tipoff is schedule for 7 pm on ESPN