On Monday Night the Los Angeles Lakers won the Las Vegas Summer League tournament, beating the Portland Trail Blazers 110-98. They got to the championship game largely by the play of rookie point guard Lonzo Ball. Ironically, Ball injured his right calf in the third quarter of their semi-final game against the Dallas Mavericks and didn’t play on Monday.
The Lakers lost their first two games in the tournament, putting them behind the eight ball, but then the team began to gel and they started a six-game winning streak. After winning the championship Coach Jud Buechler told the media, “I thought the third game was really critical. A bunch of guys who hadn’t played came out there and kind of energized our whole group.”
Their opponent in the third game was the Sacramento Kings and the final score was 95-92. Ball sat out the game as a precaution, due to a groin injury. Alex Caruso played the point, and finished the night with 18 points, nine assists and four steals.
Two days later they faced the Philadelphia 76ers. Lonzo Ball came back with a vengeance scoring 15 points just in the fourth quarter. He would finish the game with 36. What impressed many though was his passing. He and forward Kyle Kuzma looked like they were meant for each other. Kuzma had 13 points and center Ivica Zubac finished with 21. It was a close game.
They then dispatched the Cleveland Cavaliers 94-83, The Brooklyn Nets were next and the Lakers defeated them 115-106. The Nets are the team that sent Brook Lopez to the Lakers in exchange for D’Angelo Russell, plus some other players.
In their semi-final game against the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles lost their star point guard in the third quarter for the rest of the tournament. They pulled out to a big lead, but Dallas came back to challenge the Lakers.
Los Angeles won, with great play by Kuzma and guard Matt Thomas, who was sinking three-point shots throughout the tournament. He finished the semi-final with 20 points. After the game Thomas said, “A lot of teams would just lay down, once they lose the first two games, lay down lose the first one of the tournament and be content going home.”
The Lakers played the final game without Ball, but that didn’t stop them. They played a much bigger team in the Portland Trail Blazers. They led all the teams in rebounds and free throw percentage.
Lakers guard Vander Blue had a big tournament. In the final game he had 20 points, six assists and five rebounds. Thomas would finish with 23 and Kuzma had 30 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double. Passing the ball and finding the best shot was the key to winning against the Blazers. The final score was 110-98.
As many of the players and coaches said, it’s just the Summer League, but all the Lakers said winning a championship in the summer was a good way to start a trend and attitude for winning championships in the regular season.
Now the team management will have to decide which of these players to keep. Ball and Kuzma will make the team, but with great play from Vander Blue, Matt Tomas, Alex Caruso and others, the Lakers have a lot of good options going into the next season.
Below are Claudia Gestro’s video reports from the last two games of the tournament.
Photos by Claudia Gestro
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