Note: This article was updated to reflect a change in diagnosis of Nance's injury.
After a first half that saw the Lakers pound Cleveland in just about every way, Los Angeles ended its brief run in the Summer League tournament in nightmare fashion.
The Lakers blew a once 19-point lead, falling to the Cavaliers, 88-80, while Larry Nance Jr. likely fractured his wrist with 35 seconds left in an out-of-reach game.
Nance’s post-game X-rays initially revealed an apparent fracture to the base of the third metacarpal on his right hand. However, after being re-evaluated on Friday by team physician Dr. Steve Lombardo and hand specialist Dr. Steve Shin, the Lakers were relieved to learn that his injury was only a wrist sprain.
“If it’s not great news, he’s a great kid and a hard worker,” Summer League head coach Jesse Mermuys said. “He’ll be back sooner than whatever they say.”
Nance’s injury came in garbage time after Cleveland erased a 16-point halftime lead for the Lakers, who simply did not shoot well in the second half. L.A. hit 50.0 percent of its shots in the first two quarters but just 28.6 percent in the final two.
As a result, the Lakers — who had earned a first-round bye after beginning Summer League 3-0 — will play Utah in a consolation game on Friday at 7:30 p.m. PT instead of advancing to Saturday’s quarterfinals, where the Cavs will face Brooklyn.
“I think we learned a lot,” D’Angelo Russell said. “A lot of guys went forward, a lot of guys stayed the same and a lot of guys went backward. But as a team I feel like we showed that we’re on our way. As a team we didn’t go backward. That’s all that matters right now.”
Russell — who entered the game as one of the frontrunners for Summer League MVP — had the Lakers off to a hot start by scoring 13 first-half points and hitting six of his first nine shots. However, the 20-year-old went frigid from there, missing all of his next 10 shots before finally hitting a 3-pointer in the final minute went it was essentially already over.
While Russell — who finished with 19 points — couldn’t find his shot, his teammates were unable to provide much assistance, especially at the free throw line where the Lakers shot a horrendous 14-of-28.
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers shot 25-of-33 at the charity stripe. That, paired with a 49-34 rebounding advantage, helped Cleveland amend a 1-of-14 clip on 3-pointers with only five assists.
Still, ball movement wasn’t exactly necessary when all the Cavs had to do was get the ball to Jordan McRae.
A D-League All-Star for Delaware last season, McRae looked exactly like he did when he scored a league-record 62 points in a single game for the 87ers.
In the 40-minute Summer League contest against the Lakers, he racked up 36 points on 12-of-22 shooting while collecting nine rebounds and hitting 11-of-13 at the foul line.
“Obviously he’s big, but he can handle like a point,” Mermuys said. “If you take away the rim and the free throw line, he’s making his jumper. That’s a hard guy to guard.”
McRae came out firing with 14 points in the first quarter, but L.A. made its run while he rested in the second, outscoring the Cavaliers 31-15. However, he still had plenty left for the second half, when he led the rally with 20 more points.
In fact, McRae singlehandedly pushed his team ahead when the Lakers took a 70-68 lead with eight minutes left. From there he scored all of Cleveland’s points in its ensuing 8-1 run to power past the purple and gold for good.
“He was rolling,” Russell said. “Tonight we didn’t mix it up enough and lock in. We can’t put it on one guy or two guys. You’ve got to put it on the whole team.”
Ups and Downs
Six Lakers finished in double-digit scoring, but Russell’s supporting cast couldn’t find the consistency to make up for his scoring drought.
Second-overall pick Brandon Ingram was the next-highest scorer with 13 points, but he shot just 4-of-12 to get there, putting his field goal clip in Las Vegas at just 31.6 percent. Likewise, backup point guard Xavier Munford scored 12 points with four steals, but scored only one point in the second half and went 3-of-11 overall.
Ivica Zubac and Jamil Wilson both provided 10 points, while the former also added seven rebounds.
Prior to his injury, Nance was the most effective of the bunch, notching a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Russell said he has “no idea” if he will play in Friday’s game considering that he will participate at USA Basketball training camp beginning Monday. … McRae’s 25.8 points per game at Summer League leads all who have played at least three games, while Russell is second with 21.8. … Cleveland’s roster has zero first-round picks, but it has eliminated Boston and Los Angeles, which have seven combined, from the tournament. … Kay Felder, this year’s No. 54 pick, scored 20 points on 9-of-19 shooting.