The Los Angeles Lakers have a chance to defend their Las Vegas Summer League Championship on Tuesday night when they face the Portland Trail Blazers. They got there by surviving a double-overtime thriller with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the semifinals, coming out on top, 112-109.
The main headlines focused on the scoring exploits of Josh Hart and Svi Mykhailiuk, who combined for 68 points. However, another extremely important factor was the play of Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who was pressed into the starting lineup for Lakers two-way player Alex Caruso, who missed the game because of illness.
Rathan-Mayes finished with 12 points and nine assists while committing just two turnovers in helping the Lakers to victory. Afterwards, he spoke about the mentality he played with that was key to filling in for Caruso, via the Lakers’ Twitter account:
“Next man up mentality. That’s something coach has always talked about. I was able to start a couple games in Sacramento, which gave me confidence. I just wanted to be ale to come out, lead my team, get guys touches and just help get a win.”
Rathan-Mayes has been one of the unsung heroes of this Lakers’ Summer League run. Much of the attention, rightfully so, has been on the performances of Hart and Mykhailiuk, but it has been players like Rathan-Mayes, Jeff Ayres, Nick King, and Jonathan Williams doing much of the dirty work.
As he noted, Rathan-Mayes started the first two Summer League contests in Sacramento during the California Classic as Caruso was fulfilling his duties with the Team USA for the World Cup Qualifying. Now, as Caruso dealt with an illness, once again Rathan-Mayes stepped up for the Lakers.
Whether or not he needs to start in the Championship Game, Rathan-Mayes is sure to make an impact as he has done all Summer.
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