Clarkson Beats the Buzzer in Lakers Overtime Win
Can we interest anybody in a tipped-home, buzzer-beating game winner from one of L.A.'s two rookies?
OK … but hold that thought.
The weird thing about the Las Vegas Summer League: winning only sorta matters. Of course, any time competitive young men take the floor, getting a W is the goal … but for the teams sending players to fill their rosters, simply getting a full look at various players up and down the roster can take precedence over the result. It's all about getting ready for the regular season, when the wins matter above all.
But nobody told that to the players on Monday night.
Indeed, at a sweaty Cox Pavilion, the Lakers and Warriors battled through a spirited contest that ultimately took overtime to decide a winner.
Kendall Marshall, who started 45 games for the senior squad last season, made a key defensive play with 17 seconds left, then drained two deciding free throws with 12.7 seconds left to put L.A. up a point … only to watch GSW's Justin Holiday drain a long two with 6.1 remaining.
With the clock ticking down, No. 7 overall pick Julius Randle was quickly triple-teamed on the baseline, but still managed to get a shot up to the rim from the baseline that juuuuuust missed. No worry! There was second round pick Jordan Clarkson flying in for the victory with a put-back. A wild finish had L.A. smiling.
"That's my second game-winner," said Clarkson. "My first tip in."
"He's always in the right spot at the right time," added Summer League coach Mark Madsen. "You saw that on the tip in."
The Warriors had rallied from as many as 11 down in the second half to tie the game up in the final minutes at 84, even forcing the Lakers into a stop on the final possession to force the extra session. The win was L.A.'s first after consecutive losses to start summer league, in advance of their next game on Wednesday evening.
On more of a macro level for the Lakers, Summer League has traditionally taken on even less importance from the standpoint that L.A., always in the playoffs, hasn't had a first round pick – let alone a lottery pick – in years. Thus the development on that end hasn't been as much of an issue. Things are different in 2014, though.
That's due in large part to Randle, L.A.'s highest draft selection since James Worthy went No. 1 overall in 1982. The 19-year-old forward missed the first game as he'd yet to sign his contract, but debuted with 10 points and two boards in 20 minutes of Sunday's Game 2. That was Randle's first competitive action since the NCAA championship game in April, so naturally, he eased into the action a bit.
But against the Warriors, Randle's motor started to rev a bit faster, his activity picking up on both ends of the floor towards 14 points, four boards, three assists and a block in 27 minutes.
"My wind was a lot better today," said Randle. "Physically I felt great. The back-to-back wasn't an issue."
"A powerful presence at 6-9, 250, Randle showed what L.A. thought would translate quite well to the NBA: an ability to beat bigger players off the dribble, then take a bump in the paint before finishing with a soft touch. Four of his five field goals came in such fashion, typically after he faced up to the basket from about 17 feet on the right side of the floor.
Perhaps more importantly, the competitive spirit and fire that a warrior of no less reknown than Kobe Bryant have praised of late was evident from Randle in the second half specifically. It's no guarantee that a player of his size and athletic ability has a motor that's constantly running on both ends, but that's perhaps the thing that has L.A.'s brass, and Randle's new teammates, most excited.
"Julius is a beast, man!" exclaimed Clarkson.
That Lakers' brass, onlooking each game from the stands, appeared collectively pleased (well … honestly, it was mostly poker faces from Mitch Kupchak and Co., but they must have been pleased) with the play of 46th overall pick, Clarkson, the team's leading scorer through three games at nearly 19 points a night after games of 21, 16 and 19. While he's done plenty of work off the dribble to get into the paint, Clarkson's also been effective from the three-point line, hitting 7 of 14 attempts.
It may just be Summer League, but signs of promise from L.A.'s two rookies are already in evidence.