Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Summer League Game 2: Trail Blazers vs. Rockets

In heartbreaking fashion, the Trail Blazers fell to 0-2 during Summer League play, falling 87-82 to the unbeaten Houston Rockets. Portland had many chances to win the game down the stretch but missed shots and turnovers sealed their fate. The Blazers led by 2 heading into the 4th, but a 10-2 run by Houston in the final 2 minutes took away all hopes of a first summer league win.
Jerryd Bayless:
It wasn't a pretty stat line for the reigning Las Vegas Summer League MVP. A mediocre 13 points, on 5-10 shooting, only 2 assists, 3 rebounds, and 6 turnovers as well. Stats aside, Bayless just looked like he was thinking too much about being a pass-first point guard out there. Many times he would bring the ball up the floor and just pass it to the first wing. There were hardly any plays called for him to throw it into the post or run a pick-n-roll with Cunningham. Most skeptics would look at this game and point out the 6 turnovers, but I'm more concerned over taking only 10 shots. His strength is his ability to score. A lot of star players like to get their teammates involved and then pick their spots when to take over, but maybe getting the offense flowing for Bayless would be easier if he scored early and often. It would draw the defense to him and clear things up for others.
All was not lost in this game for Jerryd as he showed flashes of brilliance. The one on one 20 foot pull up to end the 1st was a thing of beauty, and his defense was much improved, mainly due to not picking up so many quick fouls as he did last game. There's no problem sticking with his defender side to side, but he really needs to work on not bumping his man when they go north and south.
People will look at the box score and read only 2 assists and think "he's no point guard", but I counted at least 5 sure fire dimes that were botched by teammates including a missed alley-oop perfectly placed to Pendergraph. All of a sudden, 7 dimes seems a lot more appealing than 2. This should be no problem as guys like Outlaw, Roy, and Aldridge who will convert on those passes. Again, next game the turnovers need to be cut down. At least he wasn't too out of control this game. Overall Grade: B-
Dante Cunningham:
How was Dante not a 1st round draft pick? This is only the second time viewing his game live, but I came away even more impressed after this performance than Monday's, where he shot better. Cunningham was the leading scorer with 22 points even though he wasn't really calling for the ball through the 1st quarter. 8-20 from the field doesn't seem too attractive, but every shot was a makable shot and had about 4-5 that just rimmed in and out. A 30 point game is not out of the realm this summer. I would like to take back my Brandon Bass comparison and upgrade that to David West-lite. All Dante is lacking is the back to the basket game West has patented.
Honestly it's hard to think of many holes in his game. Only two things jump out to me. There was the missed lob pass from out of bounds in the final seconds of the game and the lack of rebounds, but battling Dorsey all night can make those rebounds a hot commodity. His basketball IQ is through the roof. One play that stood out occurred when Bayless drove baseline and drew 3 defenders and Dante moved over into the open spot and got off a 10 foot jumpers. He also knows how to adapt to the defense. Early on, Houston scouted out the deadly pick and pop and took that aspect away, but Dante showed his face up jumper a few times over the Houston bigs. There was even a post up baby hook that was on display tonight.
As for next game, I would like to see if his game has any more variety, maybe some more post ups and see how he reacts to his back to the basket and/or double teams. The one thing we know he can do is shoot, but how does he see the floor in terms of his passing ability? Overall Grade: A-
Jeff Pendergraph:
Jeff looked very lost in the early stages of the game as he missed the aforementioned dunk from Bayless and had the ball hit in him the face off of a pick and roll. Seemingly, all it took was one jumper to fall and he was right back in the game. He was incredibly efficient on his shot tonight, shooting 5-7 and hitting from all over court 18 feet and in, even showing off a couple of fade aways. His release still seems a little slow, which, if he wants that shot to be his trademark in the league, it needs to get out of his hands quicker.
Everyone will talk about the amazing shooting put on by Pendergraph, but what stood out in my mind was how he went toe to toe with Joey Dorsey, even drawing 2 charges on him. Portland has been looking for added toughness and they found it in their two 2nd round bigs. Dante will out hustle you and Jeff will get right up in your face. During the game, Blazer fans finally got to see his defensive instincts as he had a great weak side block and fronted the post entry extremely well when the situation was presented. Also of note, he has great footwork which allows him to be very active on defense, especially weak side help.
For Friday's game, it would be nice to see Jeff post up on the block and show off some post moves. I saw his great baby hook at Arizona State and it's a deadly weapon if used. Also, although it doesn't happen often, he got outworked by Dorsey for 2 boards off of missed Houston free throws and for someone as active and long as Jeff, that shouldn't happen twice in one game to the game player. Overall Grade: B+

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