Saturday, July 18, 2009

Summer League Game 4: Trail Blazers vs. Spurs

With a dominating 91-74 performance over the San Antonio Spurs, the Portland Trail Blazers picked up their first victory of the Las Vegas Summer League to run their record to 1-3. The return of Dante Cunningham provided an early offensive boost that the Blazers needed to take an early lead and never look back. This was a no-doubter, as Jerryd Bayless was able to rest and recuperate the entire fourth quarter. Jerryd Bayless: Bayless put together probably his most complete performance of the Summer League with 18 points on only 9 shots(5 made)while still handing out 5 assists. Averaging two points per shot attempt is an amazingly efficient night. What was most impressive was how comfortable he looked out there on the court as a creator. By being such an acrobatic finisher in traffic, it makes him a dual threat on the pick and roll, which Portland loves to run. A play that exemplifies this occurred when Cunningham came over to set a screen and Bayless took both defenders to the wing with him, but spaced them out far enough so he could split the defense and have the open court be his prerogative and threw up a nice floater which resulted in an And-1. Unfortunately, the turnovers reached 7 tonight, one more than his average. The frustrating aspect of each turnover is focus and control. On the first play of the game, he had Pendergraph open on the low blocks but threw him a lazy pass which ended up getting poked away. On one other occurrence, he was called for another palming violation, seemingly his calling card since he gets called for it on a nightly basis. On most nights, 0 rebounds would look rather poor, but considering George Hill only shot the ball 3 times didn't give him much of a chance to go after the ball. One thing that went unnoticed during the game was his on ball defense of George Hill, who played quite a bit as a rookie in San Antonio. He held Hill to only 6 points and only committed 2 fouls in the process, which is a huge success, because Bayless was notorious for his aggressive D last year that led to a lot of quick fouls. The most important aspect of the night for Jerryd was that he found the middle ground between distributor and scorer and looked good doing it. Do not be alarmed by the turnovers as most of them can be corrected with experience. As for tomorrow's affair with the D-league All-Stars, I'd like to see more of the same vintage Bayless living at the foul line (8-10) and finding the open man. Overall Grade: A- Dante Cunningham: Mr. Cunningham did not take long to welcome himself back onto the team tonight. His 3 straight jumpers to start the game set the tone for the Blazers to run away with a victory. He only ended up with 14 points, on 7-12 shooting, but it was the way in which he was getting his shots that is so impressive. As stated before, his basketball IQ is through the roof. He can score off the curl, from spotting up off of the pick and roll, and via the face up game; he just knows how to move well without the ball. Teams now know he can be deadly from 18 feet and are coming out to challenge that look, but he made a few nice moves with two head fakes in a row, but the following move after the pump fake needs to be quicker as he hesitated too much. The only chink in the Dante Cunningham armor tonight was the lack of rebounds, 2. The Spurs have some big bodies down low in DeJaun Blair and Ian Mahinmi which makes boards a premium. Although only 2 rebounds were gathered, no one, outside of Blair's 11, had more than 5, so it was a team effort to keep the Spurs off of the glass. It seems that as each game passes, a new aspect of his game stands out. Tonight it was his man defense, mainly on Mahinmi. A few times in the first half, Mahinmi was just too quick an agile for Pendergraph to stick with, but once Dante got the switch he was athletic enough to force him into a few bad shots. For the next game, I'd like to see Dante attack the hoop more often. Maybe off of a catch and shoot situation, throw a pump fake in there and dribble right around the defender for some points in the paint. He had 0 free throw attempts tonight and he's much too good of a charity stripe shooter to not make a living at the line. Overall Grade: B Jeff Pendergraph: It was a Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hide outing for Jeff tonight. In the first half, he was nonexistent outside of a great block on Blair. He was getting abused in the post by the aforementioned Mahinmi and wasn't as active on the boards as normal. It's a pretty bad omen when David Padgett is outplaying you in a half. To Jeff's credit he came out in the 2nd half much more focused and driven, which led to his finest outing this summer, 14 points, 6-6 from the line, and 10 rebounds. The strength of his hands, as a ball never seems to get out of his grasp, was shown off on a multitude of plays down low which resulted in free throw attempts and dunk put backs. Bayless threw him a pass where only he could grab it, but it was a difficult catch and finish, but he took it up strong in one motion for an And-1. What really seems to be his calling card are the charges he has been known to draw, similar to Przybilla. He drew 2 in a row on the San Antonio bigs and that really got him going. For him to make it in this league as a known defender, he must get quicker. He has zero problems muscling with the wide bodies, as he swatted Blair twice while Blair shot in the post and affected countless others. Its those long, lanky, athletic players which are too quick for Jeff to stay in front of that give him fits. I wish he would learn to play off the quicker players and make them beat him in other ways first, so he needs to improve on adapting. Overall Grade: A

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