Orlando Training Camp Scrimmages End With Loss To Thunder

by Casey Holdahl
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After waiting over four months for the return of NBA basketball, the wait to see how the Trail Blazers will look with their full complement of players will go on just a little bit longer.

With the starting backcourt sitting out the entire game and a number of rotation players resting in the second half, the Trail Blazers fell 131-120 to the Oklahoma City Thunder in their third and final scrimmage in Orlando before the beginning their eight-game restart of the 2019-20 season.

“I think the best thing was to get out there and play against somebody else, play at game speed,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “I think our practices were probably more beneficial than our scrimmages, but playing extended minutes, playing a nine, 10 minute stretch from a conditioning standpoint was probably the most important thing for us.”

With the loss, the Trail Blazers finish their three warmup scrimmages with an 0-3 record.

While it’s foolish to get too excited or upset about the end result of a scrimmage, it goes down as a disappointment that the Trail Blazers were unable to get their entire rotation on the floor for even one of their three exhibitions in Orlando. With Jusuf Nurkic playing competitively for the first time in 16 months and Zach Collins finally returning from shoulder surgery which kept him sidelined for all but three games this season, the hope was that the team would be able to build some on-court chemistry in at least one of the scrimmages.

But injuries, none of which are reportedly all that serious, scuttled that plan. Hassan Whiteside sat out the first scrimmage with left Achilles soreness, Damian Lillard sat out the second and third scrimmages with left foot soreness and CJ McCollum didn’t play in the Tuesday’s contest due to load management. Considering that Carmelo Anthony is moving from power forward to small forward, Whiteside has had little to no experience playing alongside either Nurkic or Collins and Lillard’s importance to basically everything the Blazers do, never having a chance to see what the likely rotation for the first “restart” game versus the Grizzlies feels like a missed opportunity.

But according to Stotts, the Blazers got plenty accomplished during the Orlando minicamp, even if they didn’t get a chance to use one of the scrimmages as a dry run.

“There’s no question, we’re ready,” said Stotts. “We had a lot of practice time and did a lot of things that we wanted to get done in practice. So the games were more about just playing games.”

Anfernee Simons started in place of Lillard and finished with a game-high 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field and 5-of-8 shooting from three to go with five assists and four rebounds in 30 minutes.

Gary Trent Jr. got his second start in as many games -- he started in place of Lillard in the second scrimmage -- and finished with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field and 5-of-6 shooting from three.

Anthony and Nurkic both sat out the second half, opening up time for Mario Hezonja (13 points, six rebounds in 28 minutes) and Wenyen Gabriel (14. points, seven rebounds). Zach Collins played 20 minutes and finished with 10 points and Jaylen Adams added 12 points off the bench.

Seven Thunder players finished in double figured led by 20 points from Darius Bazley. Hamidou Diallo added 16 and Dennis Schroder finished with 14.

Next up, the Trail Blazers have two days to prepare for their first, and arguably the most important, game of their restart schedule versus the Grizzlies on July 31. Tipoff is scheduled for 10 a.m.

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