The Trail Blazers saved their most exciting performance for last at Summer League. Unfortunately, a stunning late-game collapse robbed Portland of leaving Las Vegas victorious.
Portland fell to the Houston Rockets 95-92 in both teams' Summer League finale, a result stemming from a furious crunch-time rally that otherwise would have been most memorable for the series of highlight-reel plays made by Greg Brown and the Blazers.
Brown, Portland's rookie second-rounder who just signed a three-year, guaranteed contract, was absolutely electric in his last taste of game action before the preseason. He nearly shut down Summer League and the internet simultaneously just before halftime with a jaw-dropping between-the-legs dunk in transition, just a preview of more highlights to come.
Brown finished with 13 points and eight rebounds, both Summer League highs, to go along with two blocks. He also shot 6-of-7 from the field, his lone miss coming from beyond the arc.
Antonio Blakeney showed off his scoring chops again for Portland, leading his team with 23 points. Emmanuel Mudiay and Michael Beasley played well, while CJ Elleby—though he cooled off as the game went on—put together his best performance in Las Vegas, too.
Still, none of it was enough for the Blazers to stave off the Rockets' comeback.
Trailing 90-83 with 1:11 remaining after a soaring, lefty tip dunk by Brown, Houston came out of the timeout pressing Portland, intent to steal the game. That last-ditch effort was rewarded by some baffling decision-making by the Blazers, and not just the players.
Following a bad turnover by Elleby in the backcourt, Portland's second straight, Houston rookie Usman Garuba threw down a dunk to make it a one-point game with 40 seconds left. Roy Rogers instinctively called timeout to help the frazzled Blazers regroup, prompting a technical foul and subsequent game-tying free throw from Armoni Brooks because Portland didn't actually have any timeouts remaining.
Moments later, Blakeney lost contact with his fellow veteran gunner, affording the red-hot Brooks enough space for a clean look at three. Splash.
The Blazers had a final chance to tie the game at the buzzer, but Blakeney's difficult, fading triple over the outstretched arms of the defense clanged off the front of the rim.
Obviously, Portland would have rather left Sin City on the high note of a solid win. The Blazers received worthwhile contributions from all seven players who suited up in the finale, though, and Brown's awe-inspiring aerial exploits made him the talk of Summer League. It could have been worse.
Next up for Portland? The front office needs to sign at least one more player, and Chauncey Billups needs to continue building out two-way schemes to maximize his team's talent. But Brown, Elleby and Trendon Watford, at least, can use valuable experience earned in Las Vegas as a springboard for training camp come late September.
Summer is almost over, Rip City, and (official) Blazers basketball is almost here again.