Simons Puts On A Show Before Suffering Injury, Loss To Jazz

by Casey Holdahl
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LAS VEGAS -- Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons gave fans plenty to be excited about in the first 39 minutes of Portland's contest versus the Utah Jazz Tuesday afternoon at the Las Vegas Summer League.

But in the final minute, he likely put quite a scare into those same fans.

The 6-4 guard entering his second season out of IMG Academy put up a 2019 Las Vegas Summer League high 35 points before suffering a grade 1 right ankle sprain in the final moments of Portland's 97-93 loss to Utah Tuesday afternoon at COX Pavilion on the campus of UNLV.

"I think (Simons) played really well," said assistant coach Jim Moran, who is handling head coaching duties in Las Vegas. "Looking back I was a little disappointed I took him out at the end of the first quarter, I should have probably let him go for the entire quarter. But I thought he played really well. I still want him to be more assertive and more vocal running the team, he needs to be a little more communicative, but overall I thought he had a really good game."

The Trail Blazers are now 1-2 in summer league play. With the loss, Portland now faces an uphill battle to be one of the Top 8 teams to qualify for the Las Vegas Summer League Tournament, which the Trail Blazers won in 2018. Though at this point, getting through their remaining slate of games injury-free is likely more of a priority than making the advancing to tournament play.

After going 6-of-11 from the field and 4-of-6 from three in Portland's victory versus the Rockets on Sunday, Simons picked up right where he left off versus the Jazz on Tuesday, going a perfect 5-of-5 from three for 15 points in the first seven minutes of play. Behind Simons' lights-out shooting, Portland took a 25-19 lead after the end of the first quarter.

But with Simons on the bench and his fellow teammates shooting a combined 6-of-24 from the field, the Jazz were able to cut the Trail Blazers' lead to 44-43 before the halftime intermission.

Simons seemed to slow in the third quarter, putting up just two shots in roughly seven minutes. Gary Trent Jr. and Devin Robinson were able to pick up some of the slack -- they combined for 15 points in the quarter -- but Utah still managed to go up by as many as seven before taking a 75-70 lead into the fourth and final quarter.

However, Simons wasn't done. With the game starting to slip away, the guard, who is expected to take on a much more prominent role in the upcoming 2019-20 season, reasserted himself as the best player on the floor. He scored 12 points in the quarter, including a 20-foot jumper that gave the Trail Blazers a 93-92 lead with 1:21 seconds to play.

After Utah's Miye Oni missed a three pointer with just over a minute to play, Portland got the ball back with a chance to increase their lead, but Nassir Little stepped out of bounds after receiving a pass on the baseline with 48 seconds to play.

The Jazz came up empty on the next possession, but Tanner McGrew managed to block Trent Jr. at the rim , which resulted in a transition three for Stanton Kidd and a 95-93 Utah lead with 17 seconds to play.

After a couple timeouts, the Trail Blazers got the ball to Simons, who drove the the rim in an attempt to tie the game. But after having his shot block, Simons fell hard to the floor, potentially injuring his right ankle. After staying on the floor for a few moments, Simons was helped to the bench by team trainers. He did not return, and a few moments later, the game ended with the Jazz on top.

"I don't know if it was a foul or not. It didn't look like it, it just looked like he lost his footing," said Moran. "I thought he got by his man and got where he needed to go, he just lost his footing. It's unfortunate, they played really well. We were in the game, then we were out of the game, then we were back in the game. I think they competed and put themselves in a position to win and unfortunately it didn't go that way."

Simons finished with six rebounds, two steals and two assists to go along with 35 points on 13-of-18 shooting from the field and 6-of-7 shooting from three. He has now scored 66 points on 56 percent shooting from the field and 65 percent shooting from three over the course of three games.

Trent Jr. went 4-of-15 from the field for 12 points while also tallying eight points, five assists and two steals in 30 minutes. Gian Clavell added 11 points. Devin Robinson added nine and Jarnell Stokes grabbed 12 rebounds to go with six points, four assists, two blocks and a steal in 23 minutes.

Both McGrew and Tony Bradley finished with 17 points for the Jazz. Josh Sharma came off the bench to pu up 13 points in 11 minutes while Kidd added 11 and George King pitched in 10 to round out Utah's double digit scorers.

Next up, the Trail Blazers play their final play-in game before the start of tournament play versus the Oklahoma City Thunder Thursday night at COX Pavilion. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. on NBA TV.

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