The NBA Summer League tournament has begun at both the Thomas & Mack Center and the Cox Pavilion. The trophy is on display and the options are either to win or go home. For the Miami Heat losing is not a choice. They have traveled over 2,000 miles and to go home with an “L” on their hands is not in their plans.
The two teams met first on July 7th, Day 2 of the Summer League in Las Vegas. It was a sour game for the Miami Heat, who were demolished by the New Orleans Pelicans. The final score was 119-84. The leading Scorer for the Pels was Walter Lemon Jr. with 29 points and 9 assist. There next meeting was July 12th and at the buzzer, there was a different result.
On Thursday afternoon, the Heat had a chip on their shoulders from the previous blowout. From the tip-off, both teams were displaying high urgency and intensity. Both teams were feeding off the energy and rhythm of their teammates. Miami point guard Derrick Walton Jr. was happy with his teammates’ performance on the court. “The energy was contagious, overall staying together, the biggest thing was Resilience. I try to be as selfless and give as much as possible. It’s usually how this game works you give and you get”. Unfortunately, Walton Jr left the game with a sprained ankle. With this only being Waltons 2nd Summer League and some issues off the court with Free-agency, Walton has remained humble and is soaking up the entire experience.
The player who stole the show was the Heat’s power forward Jarrod Jones. Jones is a veteran and is amongst the older players active in the Summer League at 28 years young. His experience playing basketball overseas for six years has definitely prepared him for this level of gameplay. He is eager and elated to be helping his team compete for the championship. According to Jones, he is never contempt and is always striving for techniques to elevate his game. “Three keys I took away from this game were, anything is possible, we were offensively efficient, and with being that I played overseas six years and coming back to the NBA platform is a really big deal for me”, says Jones. Jones scored in impressive 31 points during the game.
Down the stretch, the Pelicans were really aggressive but the Heat remained solid. Miami always had an answer for the Pelicans. Jones and Walton Jr were able to knock down some important three-point field goals in the fourth quarter. When asked about his position on the team Walton Jr put it plain and simple, “my job is easy, to take care of what I take care of, I do my job and that is to play basketball”.
Coach Eric Glass was delighted that his team was buying into what the coaches have been preaching, “I’m happy for the guys, because it’s one more opportunity that they have to compete in the summer league and that’s the biggest thing. I’m happy that they are playing well”. Not only did Miami put pressure on the Pelicans defensively, but on offense, they were attacking the rim and making extra passes. Coach Glass refers to it as “from good to great”.
By Aniea Collins – UNLV Student