The Los Angeles Lakers started off the 2017 Las Vegas Summer League on the wrong foot but managed to rebound and make their way towards the championship game. After losing their first two games, the Lakers settled in by winning five consecutive games.
After halting the Dallas Mavericks and their comeback attempt on Sunday, the Lakers geared up for another back-to-back, with the championship on the line. The Lakers also received both positive and negative news on Monday in relation to the 2017 Las Vegas Summer league.
No. 2 overall pick Lonzo Ball was ruled out of the championship game while dealing with a calf strain. While Ball stated he wanted to play, the training staff ultimately had the final say and elected to take the precautionary route. Although Ball was sitting courtside cheering his teammates, he managed to step onto center court for another celebration.
Ball was voted the unanimous 2017 Las Vegas Summer League MVP. Ball became the first Laker to win the award, while putting together a dominant Summer League campaign, including two triple-doubles. Head coach Jud Buechler sent out Vander Blue, Alex Caruso, Matt Thomas, Kyle Kuzma and Ivica Zubac against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Without Ball on the court, the Lakers wanted to make an emphasis on ball movement, attempting to replicate the team basketball that led to five wins. The Lakers started out the game aggressive from three-point range, with Thomas and Kuzma both hitting from deep.
While Ball has been the MVP of the Lakers, Kuzma has been an emerging talent. Kuzma took a coast-to-coast drive for a tough basket in the paint, then followed by hitting a corner three on the assist from Caruso. Thomas also hit his second three-pointer of the game with three minutes in the first, giving the Lakers a 21-20 lead.
The Trail Blazers closed out the first quarter with a strong stretch, giving them a 30-27 lead at the end of the quarter. Kuzma led the way with 11 points, while Thomas chipped in eight points as well.
Kuzma continued to lead the charge heading into the second quarter, as he opened the scoring with a three-pointer and three-point play on a drive to the basket. However, the Trail Blazers were also executing tremendously on the break. Las Vegas Summer League first-team selection Caleb Swanigan was stuffing the stat sheet, with seven points, seven rebounds, and five assists only halfway into the second quarter. The Trail Blazers opened up a 43-36 lead thanks to some easy transition points, which promptly led to a timeout for Buechler.
Portland continued to shoot well in the first half, capitalizing on the Lakers breakdowns defensively. However, a series of consecutive buckets for Zubac and another driving three-point play for Kuzma gave the Lakers a 56-55 lead with less than a minute left. The Trail Blazers responded with a pair of buckets to take a 59-58 lead into halftime.
The second half started on an aggressive note, with both teams driving to the dish and playing physical in the paint. The game was tied at 64 until an easy dunk for Swanigan gave the Trail Blazers the lead. Although the Lakers held the advantage with a higher shooting percentage 25 minutes into the game, they were losing the turnover battle 11-5.
The Lakers took a 76-72 lead thanks to another Thomas three-pointer, as the game turned into a three-point shootout rather quickly. R.J. Hunter knocked down a three to bring it to a one-point game, but Kuzma followed with a quick release triple from the corner to extend the lead back to four points.
With a few second left, the Lakers inbounded it on the sideline with an 81-79 lead. After a deflection gave it back to the Lakers, Kuzma came off his defender and hit a rainbow three-point shot at the buzzer. Los Angeles took an 84-79 lead into the final quarter, as Kuzma totaled 30 points in just three quarters.
Los Angeles opened up the fourth quarter with an 11-0 run, thanks to a three-point play for Caruso and Thomas’ fourth three-pointer. Zubac then promptly knocked down a mid-range shot, giving the Lakers a 92-79 lead.
Consecutive Jake Layman three-pointers brought the lead to double digits, but Caruso stopped the run with a jump shot at the free-throw line. The Lakers held a 99-87 lead with five minutes left in the game, facing another tough comeback attempt at the end of the 2017 Las Vegas Summer League.
The Lakers were able to battle through the final storm, keeping their double-digit lead with less than two minutes left to play. When it was all said and done, the Lakers finished with an 110-98 victory over the Trail Blazers.
Kuzma was awarded the 2017 Las Vegas Summer League Finals MVP, leading the Lakers with 30 points and 10 rebounds, on 11-for-16 from the field and 6-for-10 from three-point range. Thomas finished the game 23 points, shooting a perfect 5-for-5 from beyond the arc.