Experience Carries Trail Blazers In Summer League Win Versus Hornets

by Casey Holdahl
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Most summer league rosters are typically comprised of players recently drafted or those about to enter their second seasons, players on two-way contracts, the undrafted and players from overseas. But this year, the Portland Trail Blazers have opted for a decidedly different approach to summer league roster construction, and it showed Sunday afternoon in their first game in Las Vegas.

With nearly 1,500 games of NBA experience, the Trail Blazers got their Las Vegas Summer League off to a rousing start with a 93-86 victory versus the Charlotte Hornets Sunday afternoon at Cox Pavilion on the campus on UNLV.

“For our roster players, we’re trying to help them get better for next season,” said summer assistant coach/summer league head coach Roy Rogers. “For the guys who aren’t on our roster, we’re trying to put them in a position where they can recognize their dreams, whether it’s getting involved to an NBA training camp, going to Europe, we’re just trying to put them in a better situation.”

With a starting lineup featuring C.J. Elleby (30 NBA appearances) Emmanuel Mudiay (300 NBA appearances), Kenneth Faried (478 NBA appearances) and Michael Beasley (609 NBA appearances) and George King, the Trail Blazers entered Sunday’s contest with a decided advantage in experience. That experience, along with King’s three-point shooting, allowed the Trail Blazers to go up by as many as 10 points in the first quarter and 11 in the second before taking a 42-34 advantage into the intermission.

And in the second half, Antonio Blackney, who had previously played for Portland at summer league, was the 2017-18 G-League MVP and appeared in 76 games over two season with the Chicago Bulls, took over the offense. The 6-4 guard out of LSU made both of is attempts late in the third quarter and carried that momentum over into the fourth during a stretch that saw the guard score 20 of Portland’s 22 points.

“I just tried to find an opening in the defense, get to my spots and just raise up,” said Blakeney, who most recently played for the Canton Charge of the G-League. “I know when I get to my spots it’s on me if I make it or not. It has nothing to do with the defense after that.”

However, even with Blakeney being perfect from both the field and the line in the second, the Hornets still managed to keep the game close, pulling to within two with after a pair of D.J. Carnton free throws with 3:26 to play.

But with the benefit of so much NBA experience, the Trail Blazers were able to ward off a young, hard-charging Hornets squad with a 14-4 run from the 2:38 to 0:28 marks in the fourth to take a 10-point lead, more than enough to ride out a comfortable victory in their 2021 Summer League debut.

Blakeney led all scorers with 27 points on 9-of-10 shooting from the field, 2-of-3 shooting from three and 7-of-7 shooting from the line in 18 minutes.

Brown scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half to go with three steals, an assist and a rebound in 24 minutes. Beasley and Greg Brown III, selected with the 43rd pick of the 2021 Draft by the Pelicans before being trade to Portland for cash and a future second round pick, each contributed nine points while Elleby and Faried added eight. As for Mudiay, he handed out a game-best nine assists in 21 minutes.

Rookie James Bouknight led the Hornets with 19 points on 50 percent shooting. LiAngelo Ball finished with 16, Vernon Carey Jr. had 11 and both Kai Jones and Nick Richards contributed 10.

With their first game in Las Vegas in the books, the Trail Blazers now have a day off before returning to action Tuesday versus the LA Clippers at Thomas & Mack Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. on ESPNU.


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