Undrafted, unheralded rookie Shoe made its NBA debut last night, and while its minutes were limited, it came up big in the late seconds of the game with a massive steal that nearly led the Trail Blazers to a stunning come-from-behind victory over the Kings. Sacramento no doubt feels a little lucky to have strolled into Portland, where Shoe was playing in front of friends and family, and escape with a 124-121 win in the season opener.
Shoe didn’t see a lot of action in the preseason, and didn’t even get into this one until the final minute, but whatever it showed new Blazers coach Chauncey Billups, it gave him enough confidence to stick Shoe on De’Aaron Fox as he brought the ball up with the Kings nursing a four-point lead. Shoe’s defense was immaculate—it didn’t give Fox any breathing room, and kept its center of gravity low, in no position to get picked or screened or shaken—until it saw its opportunity to strike:
Unfortunately for Shoe, the Blazers couldn’t make the most of its highlight-reel steal, only turning the break the other way into foul shots, of which Norman Powell hit just one. They’d get no closer.
“I thought [Shoe] played hard,” Billups said. “[Shoe] gave [us] a chance to win. At the end, [Shoe] played hard enough to win. We just didn’t play quite smart enough to win.”
Sacramento coach Luke Walton, asked if the near-catastrophe of Shoe’s play would be a distraction to his team going forward, insisted the Kings will move past this.
“Nope, not with our group,” Walton said. “We’ve got a tight group. We’ve talked about [Shoe] … we don’t concern ourselves with outside issues.”
Shoe finished the night 0-0-0-1 in one minute of action.