LAS VEGAS — Norman Powell played his first NBA Summer League game as if nothing had changed since his time as a starting guard at UCLA.
He led his team – the Toronto Raptors – in scoring, just like he did for the Bruins so many times last year. He drove hard to the basket and drew multiple fouls against big men, just like he did against Southern Methodist in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. He pushed the ball in transition, dove for loose balls and rushed over to help teammates up off the ground after hard fouls.
After 40 minutes of NBA Summer League play, Powell didn’t look at all like a player who was compromising his play as the level of competition increased around him. If anything, he expanded his game.
“I felt really comfortable,” Powell said. “We got a chance to scrimmage before this game … get the jitters out, get a feel for the game, spacing, everything like that, learn the reads.”
In the Raptors’ 90-68 victory over the Sacramento Kings, Powell showed an improved touch from the outside. After missing his first jumper less than 20 seconds into the game, he made three of his next four perimeter jumpers, showing confidence from the field.
“It’s good to get those first couple minutes (of NBA play) under our belts, get the jitters out,” said Powell, who had only three points in the first quarter, but 17 over the rest of the game.
Powell began to heat up in the second quarter, when he scored seven points. There was a 30-second stretch where he made a 3-pointer off the dribble and then drew a shooting foul on the next possession. He made both free throws.
In the third quarter, Powell had a similar 30-second spurt. He led the Raptors’ fast break and weaved around a defender for a euro-step layup, then dove on the floor for a loose ball on the very next defensive possession.
But it wasn’t really an up-and-down game for Powell, who was strong on defense throughout the game. He finished with two steals, showing some of the defensive prowess that he became known for during his time in Westwood.
“I’m really focusing on defense, and I give myself up for the team no matter what it is,” Powell said. “I really lock in and really enjoy playing defense like that, and doing whatever it takes to win honestly.”
Compiled by Matthew Joye, Bruin Sports senior staff.