LAS VEGAS — The Portland Trail Blazers focused primarily on defense during their practices prior to summer league. There’s only so much a team can learn in four days, so rather than try to figure out the intricacies of Terry Stotts’ flow offense, the emphasis was rightly put on getting up to speed on the defensive end.
On Sunday night versus the Boston Celtics, that emphasis showed.
Portland shot just 30 percent from the field and 24 percent from three, trailed by 11 before they scored their first points of the game and had just two player finish in double figures, as they fell 70-64 to the Celtics at Thomas & Mack Arena on the campus of UNLV Sunday night in Las Vegas.
“I think there were some good things we did, especially in the fourth quarter defensively,” said assistant coach Jim Moran, who is acting as the team’s head coach during summer league play. “Obviously an 11-0 start didn’t help, we couldn’t make a shot. I looked down (at the box score), our starters were 2-for-17 at one point and it got worse at halftime. It was hard, we couldn’t get anything going offensively and a lot of times that kind of bleeds down to the other end.”
With the loss, the Trail Blazers are now 1-1 at summer league with one game to go before the start of tournament play.
The Trail Blazers did a good job recovering after Boston jumped out to a 11-0 lead, going on a 15-7 run in the final six minutes of the first quarter to cut the Celtics lead to three before the start of the second quarter.
But Portland would score just nine points in the second quarter, resulting in Boston taking a 14-point lead into the intermission. The Trail Blazers would shoot better in the second half, outscoring the Celtics 20-16 in both the third and fourth quarters. Even so, Portland never really seemed to put much of a scare into a Boston team that was playing their second game in Las Vegas after also playing three games at the Utah Summer League.
“We’ve just got to be smoother,” said Caleb Swanigan. “We didn’t really hit many shots, which we’ve struggled with. Defensively, held them to 70, it’s just hard to win a game when you don’t shoot well.”
On the plus side, the Trail Blazers held the Celtics to 38 percent shooting from the field and forced 22 turnovers while only committing 14, a marked improvement from their game versus the Utah Jazz on Saturday.
The Trail Blazers were once again lead in scoring by rookie forward Caleb Swanigan, who finished with 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting, seven rebounds, two assists and a steal in 30 minutes.
Pat Connaughton, after going scoreless in Saturday’s game, went 5-of-11 from the field for 11 points to go with four assists and two rebounds in 32 minutes.
Zach Collins went 1-of-7 from the field, finishing with five points, six rebounds, three steals, two blocks and an assist in 30 minutes.
“I thought I played a little better, just couldn’t hit a shot,” said Collins. “Sometimes it goes that way. It’s frustrating, I don’t feel like I’m offensively playing as well as I could be and the ball’s not going in right now. Just got to keep going at it.”
Next up, the Trail Blazers have a day off before finishing the preliminary round of summer league play versus the San Antonio Spurs Tuesday afternoon. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 pm at COX Pavilion on the campus of UNLV.