A near-packed house at the UNLV Men’s Basketball arena was the scene for the Lakers’ first Summer League game. Expect the same thing tonight when the Lakers face the Celtics, since reports indicate the game sold out.
Last night’s game showed some glimpses of greatness and not-so-great. Let’s look at the good first. Brandon Ingram dropped 26 points, including the game-tying shot with less than 30 seconds in regulation. Ingram cleared out the lane, and took his defender to the cleaners sequentially.
BRANDON INGRAM IS TOO GOOD FOR SUMMER LEAGUE!
I’m sorry for “yelling” through the keyboard, but Ingram was far-and-away the best player on the court. His shot repetoire reminds me of one of the best Lakers in franchise history, who just so happened to wear a number ending in the 4 digit for a good portion of his career.
In the first quarter, Ingram wound up with the ball about 18 feet from the basket on the baseline. Ingram dropped 2 quick, but deceptively powerful, dribbles while posting up a defender. He pulled a quick head fake over his left shoulder as he turned around, and floated a beautiful fade away jumper. It was reminiscent of the Kobe Bryant era, folks.
Okay, it’s time to get smacked back into reality. The Lakers somehow lost to the Clippers, a team that lacked any standout players before the night started. Lonzo Ball, our prized rookie, shot 2/15 from the field. To his credit, one miss was from halfcourt, and 3 were broken plays where unaware teammates passed him the ball with a second or two to shoot. But he still missed a lot of open shots throughout the game, which included an airball on a wide open 3 and a clanker off the glass.
Although Lonzo’s poor shooting night stood out among social media observers, I was more interested in other facets of his game. Lonzo finished with 5 assists, 3 “hockey” assists-a pass that immediately leads to an assist, and 3 or 4 shoulda-been assists. He also tacked on 4 rebounds and a block, while playing somewhat disruptive defense. There were two plays in particular where Lonzo was mismatched, and the opposing Clipper blew past him, but that definitely wasn’t the theme of his night.
The part of Lonzo’s game that most excited me was his playmaking ability. In the second quarter after the Clippers made a basket, Lonzo caught the inbounds pass, and threw a dart to Vander Blue. That pass traveled a good 65 feet, and Blue somehow caught the pass in stride for a bucket around a defender.
Throughout the night, Lonzo’s quick passes were surprising his teammates. 2 of his 3 turnovers on the night came from teammates not being ready for a pass. Overall, Lonzo made a lot of great decisions. Despite his poor shooting night, Lonzo displayed great shot selection and confidence. If you ask Kobe how to get out of a shooting slump, he’ll respond with a version of “Just shoot it out.”
Most of the attention was on the two aforementioned players, but it was the last rookie drafted by the Lakers that stood out most among the rookie class. The 6’10” big man, Thomas Bryant (42nd overall pick), played exceptionally well with a huge burst of energy off the bench. Bryant immediately drilled a 3-pointer on his first possession, and exploded for 12 points in his first seven minutes on the court. Bryant finished the game with 13 points and 5 rebounds.
The other two rookies, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart, played fairly well. Hart showed a nice defensive tenacity in his limited floor time. As for Kuzma, he was jumping over defenders and showing off his impressive offensive skill set. In general, the team played really well. There were a few expected hiccups, so expect to see Lonzo adjust his game tonight when the Lakers take on the Celtics @ 5:30pm PST.