Heading into Summer League the Los Angeles Lakers looked to have on of the top teams in Las Vegas, at least on paper anyway. With rookies D'Angelo Russell, Larry Nance Jr., Anthony Brown, and Robert Upshaw joining second-year players Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and Jabari Brown a horde of Lakers fans flocked to the desert expecting to see the future. Instead they have been greeted by what looks tragically like the past: poor ball movement, sloppy play, and losses.
The Lakers hoped to get things back on track against the Dallas Mavericks in the Summer League tournament with a spot in the next round on the line.
The first half saw once again the Lakers fall behind early as they struggled to stop the win-less Mavs. Dallas used their passing and cutting to find open looks, which resulted in them shooting 45% from the field with 11 assists. On the other end the Lakers shot just 40% with 4 assists. The lack of assists have been a consistent theme for the Lakers Summer League squad, with many of their sets resulting in isolation plays with the shot clock winding down.
On the plus side Russell played slightly better than he did in his last outing. While he wasn't connecting on his shot he did a better job running the offense and had just 2 turnovers. Julius Randle finally broke out with 10 points in the half and finally unleashed his mid-range jumper.
The second half started with a nice push by the Lakers largely thanks to the efforts of Randle, who continued attacking the basket and punishing the Mavericks down low. He also showed nimble feet defensively, staying in front of his man and making and rotating to cut off drives. With their offense continuing to find good looks, especially out of Horns sets, the purple and gold briefly found themselves with the lead. Unfortunately they allowed the Mavericks to close the quarter on a 7-0 run to trail by 5 heading into the 4th.
With a spot in the next round at stake the Lakers ramped up their offense and started really taking it to the Mavs. D'Angelo Russell started finally showing why he was the 2nd overall pick and used his pinpoint passing to find open looks for his teammates.
This is what Lakers fans have been wanting to see.
Jabari Brown came up big with strong drives to the basket and clutch free throw shooting, pushing the Lakers to a tie with just over 30 seconds remaining. Unfortunately D'Angelo Russell tried to split a screen and turned the ball over, leading to a Mavs possession that saw Jeremy Tyler score on a tip in.
Coach Mark Madsen took two timeouts to set up a play with 1.4 seconds left on the clock but the result was less than impressive, as Julius Randle was forced to launch a prayer from well beyond the three-point line. With the loss the Lakers fall to just 1-3 in Summer League play.
While dropping the game was disappointing there were certainly some positives for the young Lakers. Julius Randle finally got on track was the bruising force that fans have been hoping to see, finishing with 17 points. Russell got his passing game going and finally looked closer to a true 2nd overall pick. Jabari Brown led the team in scoring with 19 points and will be a threat off the bench for the Lakers this year. It wasn't the best performance this group can put together but it was light years better than what was seen on Monday against New York.
With this loss the Lakers are eliminated from the Summer League tournament, but will play a consolation game on Friday. After that there is a long basketball drought until training camp begins in late September, so get your basketball fix in while you still can.
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