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The championship title has proven elusive for James Harden so far in his career
  1. NBA

NBA - US Sports: Review of the NBA Summer League

The NBA Summer League came to a close on Sunday as Portland Trail Blazers landed the Championship with an 85-77 victory over New York Knicks.

The Blazers confirmed their status as Summer League specialists as they have now won two of the last four editions of the offseason event, while they have appeared in three of the last five championship games.

The focus on Portland going into the tournament was on Shaedon Sharpe, who they selected with the seventh overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, but he suffered a shoulder injury in their opener and didn't feature after that blow.  

Sharpe remains an unknown quantity going into the new season and is +1500 to win the Rookie of the Year award, but there were clearly still plenty of positives for the Blazers to take into the new season and second-year pair Trendon Watford and Brandon Williams could be in line for big seasons.

Blazers recover from slow NBA Sumer League start

Portland lost their Summer League opener to Detroit Pistons but responded with wins over New Orleans Pelicans, the Knicks and Houston Rockets to finish as one of seven teams with 3-1 records after the first four games. 

The Knicks beat Golden State Warriors and Chicago Bulls before their loss to Portland, but a win over Orlando Magic saw them finish in the top two after four games due to their superior points differential.

Toronto Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls also had 3-1 records after four games, with the Raptors and Chicago also winning their fifth games in the final two days of the Summer League before Portland downed the Knicks.

Both teams started sluggishly in the Championship games and the Knicks held a 14-12 lead at the end of a first quarter where both sets of players struggled to make their shots.

However, Portland found some rhythm in in the second as they outscored the Knicks 29-16 to take an 11-point at halftime and from that point on they were never behind as they secured an 85-77 win and the Summer League Championship.

Williams and Watford star for Portland

Point guard Williams led the game in scoring with 22 points, scoring with all 10 of his free throw attempts, and he also managed a game-high five assists but it was forward Watford who claimed the MVP award with 19 points and seven rebounds.

Portland outrebounded the Knicks 37-32 over the course of the game and that probably proved the difference late on as they held on for the victory.

"They made a run in I think the late third or the fourth," said Watford after the game, via ESPN. "We stuck together and when we came back in, we turned it up and I'm just proud of all these guys, man.

"It was big-time, our chemistry came together since day one and I'm just proud of all these guys.'' 

Watford went undrafted in 2021 but signed a two-way deal in August last year with the Blazers and that was upgraded to a standard deal in February.

The 21-year-old played in 48 games for Portland last season, starting 10, and could be set for a bigger role in their rotation next season after his strong performances in the Summer League.

Williams, 22, also went undrafted in 2021 and then joined the Westchester Knicks, the New York Knicks G-League affiliate team.  The guard was signed to a 10-day contract by the Blazers in December as teams across the NBA were losing players due to health and safety protocols and ultimately managed to secure a two-way deal with the team in February.

Williams made 24 appearances last season, 16 of which were starts, and should be involved regularly next season but he will be behind superstar Damian Lillard and offseason recruit Gary Payton II in the pecking order for the point guard role.

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Knicks should take positives

The Knicks may have lost out in the Championship game but they should take plenty of positives from their Summer League campaign.

Quentin Grimes led the team in scoring with 19 points, despite scoring with just two of his 11 three-point attempts, and he was one of five players to finish with double figures as Miles McBride scored 17 points, Jericho Sims added 13 and Feron Hunt and Micah Potter each managed 10.

Grimes and Sims in particular have impressed during the Summer League for the Knicks and the duo may be more involved in the team's rotation next season after their strong performances across the five games in Vegas.

Grimes is +10000 to win the Most Improved Player award next season and Portland's Anfernee Simons can be backed at +3000.

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