Blazers defeat Hornets 85-82 in first Summer League Game

In front of a scarce crowd at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on Sunday night, the Portland Trail Blazers played the first of seven Summer League games against the new look New Orleans Hornets. Without first overall pick Anthony Davis patrolling the paint, the Hornets had to rely on 10th pick Austin Rivers while the Blazers got a good chance to see how Damian Lillard, Meyers Leonard, Will Barton and the sophomores would gel together.

Coach Kaleb Canales’ starting lineup included Damian Lillard, Nolan Smith, Wesley Matthews, Luke Babbitt and Meyers Leonard. It was clear from the start that nerves on both teams were high, running around like their heads were cut off, the Blazers fell victim to careless turnovers and poor shooting, dropping to as low as 27% from the floor. Rivers would go to knock a few deep three-pointers but looked very anxious, trying to do too much and it became clear that the Hornets will have trouble trying to convince him into a true point guard as he looks more comfortable at the two spot.

The Hornets went on a 12-0 midway through the second quarter run that resulted in a 17-point hole by halftime. During the second half, the Blazers buckled down on defensive, Lillard did little bit of everything by dishing pretty passes and propelled himself past his defender, Babbitt was knocking down threes and Leonard cruised his way to a double-double and en route to a comeback 85-82 win to go 1-0 in Summer League.

Sixth pick Lillard had trouble shooting in the first half going 2-for-10 shooting and finding his footing, then flipped the switch going 7-for-11 for a game-high 25 points, four rebounds, four assists and three turnovers in 33 minutes of play as the starting point guard. Leonard showcased some talent in hustle and grabbing plenty of rebounds and was a welcome sight for a big man wearing a Blazer uniform, Leonard is not afraid to commit the hard foul or wrestle away the loose ball, he finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks.

Will Barton would probably like to forget his performance as he struggled offensively too for a handful of points as did Jon Dieber, another pleasant surprise included Babbitt’s 19 points and 10 rebounds with some deep threes and quick moves. Nolan Smith looked very aggressive in the first half, driving inside for the power layup but stepped on someone’s foot and left the game for good with a sore left ankle with 10 points.

Pretty solid start for the Trail Blazers rookies, they get the day off on Monday and will face the Houston Rockets on Tuesday.

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