Lonzo-less Lakers Beat Blazers To Clinch Las Vegas Summer League Title
- Playing without NBA Summer League MVP Lonzo Ball, the Lakers ran away from the Trail Blazers in the fourth quarter to take home the championship.
LAS VEGAS – With their first pick in the 2017 NBA draft, the Lakers selected the Summer League MVP. With their second pick, they nabbed the Summer League championship game MVP.
LA defeated Portland 110-98 at the Thomas & Mack arena on Monday, clinching the Las Vegas Summer League championship. Playing without prized rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, who sat due to calf tightness, the Lakers ran away from the Blazers in the fourth quarter thanks to a game-high 30 points (on 11-16 shooting) and 10 rebounds from rookie forward Kyle Kuzma.
The exhibition championship marked a win for the Lakers’ new management team of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, who watched form courtside seats after selecting Ball with the second overall pick and grabbing Kuzma with the 27th pick in June’s draft.
“The Lakers are back,” Johnson said, during the on-court trophy presentation following the game.
Ball, who posted two triple-doubles and captivated audiences all week with his passing, was named Summer League MVP during a brief pre-game ceremony. Kuzma was tabbed as the Championship Game MVP following the Lakers’ victory.
“The [Blazers] really tested us. They had big men that caused problems for us,” Kuzma said. “We buckled down and were able to run more in the third and fourth quarter and got them tired...I didn’t know I was that aggressive. I wasn’t that aggressive in college. When you’ve got a Lakers jersey, that gives you more confidence to say you’re really here.”
Even without Ball, the Lakers managed to consistently push the tempo, share the ball and rack up the points in an exciting, high-scoring contest. Kuzma, who was named to the All-NBA Summer League Second Team, electrified the pro-Lakers crowd by hitting a buzzer-beating three-pointer to close the third quarter on a night that saw him shoot 6-10 from outside.
“I’m proud of them,” Ball said of his teammates. “It’s nice to have a championship under our belt even though it’s just Summer League...“[Kuzma had] an easy 30-ball. Nothing new for him. He did what Kyle does out there. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. Every night he gives it his all.”
Portland showed signs of fatigue down the stretch, but kept things close thanks to first-round pick Caleb Swanigan (25 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists), an All-NBA Summer League First Team selection.
“Our guys bought into moving the ball,” Lakers Summer League coach Jud Buechler said. “You could see the joy they had in that. Because they bought into that, everyone gets their points. It’s kind of like the Golden State Warriors, their blueprint...This is what we want to start, this type of feeling. It’s only Summer League, we’re not going to go nuts about it, but we’re hoping all of this can carry over.”
The Lakers, who finished Summer League with a 6-2 record and six straight wins, became the fifth team to win the Summer League title since the event adopted a tournament format in 2013. The previous winners, in order, were the Warriors (2013), Kings (2014), Spurs (2015) and Bulls (2016). Portland wrapped Summer League with a 5-3 record.