It’s fashionable to show up a little late in Las Vegas anyway.
The Portland Trail Blazers, despite once again spotting their opponent a double-digit lead in the first quarter, secured their second win of the Las Vegas Summer League with an 88-77 performance versus the New York Knicks Monday night at Thomas & Mack Arena on the campus of UNLV.
“We got smacked to start,” said assistant coach/summer league head coach Steve Hetzel. “They punched us right in the mouth. I loved the way we responded. You could see it in the huddle that they weren’t going to give up, they weren’t going to cave in. It was fun to be a part of.”
By handing the Knicks their first loss of Summer League, the Trail Blazers improved to 2-1 in Las Vegas with at least two more games to play.
New York scored the first 13 points on Monday night’s contest and led 24-9 at the end of the first quarter. But rather than folding up, the Trail Blazers doubled down, going on a 21-4 run to tie the game at 28-28 midway through the second quarter.
Portland would go on to take a one-point lead into the intermission. After trading the lead for the first few minutes of the third, the Knicks scored eight-straight to take a 54-49 advantage with 3:13 to play in the quarter. But Craig Randall and George King would answer with back-to-back three-pointers, which started a 10-2 Portland run that would give the Blazers a two-point lead going into the final frame.
After getting “smacked” to start the game, the Blazers returned the favor in the fourth. Greg Brown III finished two dunks, Kyle Alexander got one as well and Jabari Walker, who Portland selected with the second-to-last pick of the 2022 Draft, continued his eye-opening play in Las Vegas, scoring 11 of his 16 points in the final 10 minutes to help secure the 11-point victory.
“We knew (New York’s) intensity wasn’t going to stay the whole time,” said Walker, who left Colorado after two seasons. “I like to call it rah-rah at the beginning of the game, they jumped out but we stayed composed. Our timeouts were all beneficial, good talks so we knew we were going to walk them down and that’s what we did.”
Five Blazers scored in double figured Monday night, with Trendon Watford leading the way with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting to go with six rebounds and an assist in 28 minutes.
Walker posted the first double-double of his fledgling pro career, finishing with 16 points and 13 rebounds in 26 minutes.
Keon Johnson added 11 points and Brandon Williams 10, though both players also finished with four rebounds and four assists. Craig Randall went 4-of-8 from three for 12 points in 16 minutes.
Quentin Grimes led all scorers with 24 points in the losing effort.
The Blazers will finish up their scheduled games at summer league on Thursday versus the Rockets at 6:30 p.m. on NBA TV before completing their play in Las Vegas on either Saturday or Sunday versus a team to be determined.