The Los Angeles Lakers sent Ryan Kelly and Tarik Black down to their D-League affiliate, the Los Angeles D-Fenders, for the D-League showcase in Santa Cruz, California this weekend. It was not enough, as the D-Fenders lost their first game of the event to the Canton Charge 118-113 despite another big scoring night from Kelly.
The D-Fenders jumped out to an early lead, holding a 34-25 advantage over Canton after high scoring first quarters from Kelly and former Lakers guard Vander Blue, who combined for 23 of the D-Fenders' points in the period. Blue scored 29 points on 9-20 shooting to go with 5 assists and 2 steals, another big game for a guard who could absolutely at least make another team's bench. Unfortunately for Blue, the Lakers' crowded guard rotation makes it unlikely he receives another purple and gold call-up this season.
The Charge battled back, outscoring the D-Fenders 30-20 in the second quarter when Tarik Black was forced to the bench with foul trouble to take a one point lead headed into halftime. Turnovers were an issue for both teams, but the Charge's break was much more effective, outscoring Los Angeles 20-6 in transition. This pace allowed Canton to win the third quarter and hold on to take the game after a nice comeback effort from the D-Fenders.
Kelly was once again impressive in the D-League. The Lakers' 48th overall pick in 2013 continued to demonstrate that he can score in bunches at this level, dropping 29 points on 10-19 shooting with 6 rebounds and 3 blocks. Kelly scored utilizing his typical array of leaning and awkward, yet effective, finishes off the dribble:
Kelly also flashed his shooting touch after handling the ball in transition:
Kelly also baited officials into whistles like a 6'11 Lou Williams, drawing eight free-throws and sinking all of them. His mom was impressed:
The Duke product is not known for his defense, but his three blocked shots were not evidence of stat chasing. Kelly used good timing on defense and was a helpful rim protector for the D-Fenders against Canton:
While Kelly once again flourished, Tarik Black floundered in his worst game this season as a D-Fender. The big man got into foul trouble early, and was not able to get on the court for enough extended stretches to impact the game to the same degree as he has in past appearances with the D-Fenders. Black was not bad, scoring 12 points on 6-10 shooting and snaring 5 rebounds in his 25 minutes, but it was still not up to the standard observers have come to expect after his prior stat-stuffing D-League performances.
Tarik did still have some good sequences while on the floor, showing not just finishing ability out of pick-and-rolls:
But quick decision making as a passer out of the play as well:
Even though his foul trouble kept him off the floor for almost half of the game, Black added some value as a sort of player-coach on the sidelines, visibly trying to impact a poor D-Fenders' defense even when not able to be out on the court:
Tarik is actually doing a fair amount of coaching on the LA bench. I'll maintain he's the smartest player to come through KU in a while.— Scott Chasen (@SChasenKU) January 9, 2016
Brandon Bass' strong play of late has quieted some of the calls for Tarik to get more minutes, but the Lakers should still try and find some floor time to evaluate him over the second half of the season as a young, cheap option to augment their frontcourt rotation moving forward.
- Robert Upshaw has generated a fair amount of attention from Lakers' fans since being signed to the teams' Las Vegas Summer League team upon going undrafted, but those hoping to catch a glimpse of him in Santa Cruz were disappointed to not even see him on the bench. A D-Fenders official told Silver Screen and Roll that Upshaw will not play this weekend in Santa Cruz as he battles what the team is calling a "viral infection" that is not expected to be a long-term issue.
- Andre Ingram nearly burned down Kaiser Permanente arena with his three-point shooting. The 30-year old American University product was en feugo from deep, going 6-9 from deep for Los Angeles in a very nice performance for an eight-year D-League veteran looking at potentially his last real chance at a call-up.
You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen. All stats per stats.nbadleague.com