The Los Angeles Lakers dropped their most recent game of Las Vegas Summer League, losing 91-82 on Wednesday against the New York Knicks. The team’s offense struggled early on, and L.A. never regained full momentum in the game despite multiple runs that kept things close. They ultimately couldn’t get over the hump, mostly due to Immanuel Quickley who had 25 points for the Knicks.
They’ll now look to keep their Summer League championship aspirations alive on Friday night as they take on a familiar opponent: Their roommates from back home, the Los Angeles Clippers. The Lakers will have to finish as one of the top two teams in the league after four games to play to get a spot in the championship game, and Friday’s game — part of a back-to-back as the Lakers will then play Cade Cunningham and the Detroit Pistons on Saturday — will help determine where they end up.
The Lakers are currently 1-1, around the middle of the pack in the standings. They’ll need some help along the way as 7 teams are 2-0 at the time of writing this, and at least the Boston Celtics moved to 3-0 as of publishing time.
Here are a few storylines to watch in Friday’s matchup.
Undrafted vs Drafted
The Lakers don’t have any players they’ve drafted themselves on their Summer League team, with rookies such as Austin Reaves, Mac McClung, and Joel Ayayi entering the NBA world as undrafted free agents. The Clippers’ Summer League team presents a stark contrast, as they have three players that were drafted in the 2021 NBA Draft alone (Keon Johnson, Jason Preston, and Brandon (B.J.) Boston, Jr), while the team also has two draftees from the 2020 NBA Draft (Daniel Oturu and Jay Scrubb).
That might make it seem like the Lakers are lacking in talent compared to this Clippers team, but Reaves and Ayayi could have possibly been drafted as it was reported that they turned down the chance to be picked so they could choose which team they wanted to sign with.
Still, there’s definitely something to be said for the fact that the Clippers have five players that were drafted to the Lakers’ zero. But that noted, the Clippers have struggled in their two Summer League games, losing both, including an embarrassing 86-66 defeat in their most recent game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Keon Johnson — the 21st overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft — has been especially bad for the Clippers, only making seven of his 30 field-goal attempts through the first two games (23.3%), and shooting a putrid 1-13 from three-point distance.
You might have already heard the story of the Clippers’ Jason Preston, the guard out of Ohio University. He and I share something in common, as Preston once tried his hand at blogging about the NBA. He’s also struggled a bit in the Summer League (only 2 total points through 2 games) just like Johnson has, and saw his minutes decrease from his first game (24) to his second (13).
BJ Boston, their other 2021 NBA draftee, has played fine so far. The Clippers organization seems to like what they see from him, giving the late second-round pick a two-year, fully guaranteed $2.5 million deal. According to Keith Smith, that’s the most guaranteed money for a draft pick in the 50s that wasn’t an international draft-and-stash prospect.
Looking for a response from the offense
Head coach Quinton Crawford will be looking for more intensity from the Lakers on the offensive end on Friday. The Lakers had trouble getting efficient looks throughout the evening, to the credit of the Knicks’ defense that deterred the Lakers from doing what they wanted to do.
“I think our struggles were from their defensive pressure,” said Lakers summer league head coach Quinton Crawford. “We didn’t do a great job of absorbing their defensive pressure and using it against them, which caused them to push our catches out, which caused us to start our offense from a little further out.”
You can tell the defensive pressure from the Knicks forced inefficient shot attempts from the Lakers just by looking at their shot chart from the game. You’ll see plenty of long 3-point attempts far above the break with only three three-point attempts coming from the efficient corner areas.
Hopefully the young Lakers are not getting tired. All of these teams are working with a sense of unfamiliarity with each other as these rosters were compiled only a couple of weeks ago, but even though that could make it an advantage that the Lakers have two more games than the Clippers underneath their belt due to the California Classic they played in prior to the official Las Vegas Summer League, it could also be negatively affecting the team’s stamina right now.
Crawford talked about how non-stop it’s been for the team near the end of his postgame comments from Wednesday, stating that he was going to try and give the team the day off on Thursday prior to their back-to-back starting.
We’ll see if they can muster enough energy to beat the Clippers on Friday night and move to 2-1 in Las Vegas. The game will be televised nationally on NBA TV, with tip-off set for 7 p.m. PT.