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5 Things to Know: Summer League Championship Game
Lakers Face Blazers Without Lonzo Ball
Here is what you need to know before the Lakers battle the Portland Trail Blazers in the Summer League championship game.
1) The Lakers will have to do it without their summer MVP candidate
He tossed a perfect alley-oop on his very first possession. He’s thrown multiple football-esque, full-court assists. He punched the ball ahead for an assist on the fast-break.
Lonzo Ball lived up to some tall expectations at Summer League — recording the highest assists average in event history — but now the Lakers will have to capture the trophy without their young star, who will not play due to a mild calf strain in his right.
Ball is a favorite for Summer League MVP, having averaged 16.3 points, 9.3 assists, 7.7 rebounds and 2.5 steals, while recording both of Summer League's first two triple-doubles in more than a decade.
With Ball on the sidelines, the Lakers will likely start Alex Caruso, who recently signed a two-way contract with the team.
Caruso stole the show when he started in Lonzo's place against Sacramento last Monday, racking up 18 points, nine assists and four steals to lead the Lakers to their first of five straight victories.
2) The championship will be a clash of styles
The rest of the Lakers’ roster has completely bought into the high-octane, spread-the-ball-around offensive philosophy that stems from Ball’s playmaking, and the results have been explosive.
The Lakers scored 115 points in the quarterfinals and 108 in the semis. In comparison, the remaining teams at all three of this year’s Summer Leagues have combined to score at least 107 points just one time.
Meanwhile, the Blazers have reached the championship with a contrasting strategy of slowing down the game and locking in defensively.
None of Portland’s seven opponents have managed to hit the triple-figure mark, as they have averaged only 81.7 points per game. In the other corner, the Lakers are putting up 98.4 points a night and have only become more aggressive since tournament play began.
3) Kuzma is the hottest scorer left in Vegas
Brandon Ingram was shut down for precautionary reasons after dropping 26 points in his first game. No. 30 pick Josh Hart was sidelined by an ankle sprain. David Nwaba was waived mid-Summer League.
With three of the their top weapons out of commission, the Lakers needed somebody capable of jump-starting the scoreboard, and Kyle Kuzma has been absolutely electric in that role.
After providing only nine points in the summer opener, Kuzma has bolted up the leaderboard to become the event’s fifth-leading scorer with an average of 20.5. He’s put up 20-plus in three straight games and has been the ideal pairing for Ball’s game.
Kuzma’s floor-running ability has led to consistent transition buckets, and his 45.0 percent clip on 3-pointers has “stretch four” written all over it.
His outside game was key in the Lakers’ semifinals win, as his five 3-pointers and Matt Thomas’ six were the focal point of a ridiculous 17-of-22 night from downtown for L.A..
4) Lakers will need an answer for Swanigan
It’s been a quiet Summer League for Ivica Zubac, whose averages of 10.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks are lower than expected after his solid rookie year. But he could be the key to the Lakers taking home the trophy.
The 7-foot-1 Zubac has only averaged about 20 minutes of play since most Summer League teams like to get out and run, using small lineups that typically play true centers off the floor.
But the heart of the Blazers’ roster is center Caleb Swanigan, who is averaging a double-double with a team-high 14.9 points and 10.4 rebounds — the second-most of any player in Vegas.
Swanigan, a First Team All-American, is a physical beast who has little trouble pounding the ball down low. But Zubac does have four inches and a year of NBA experience on him, so look for an pivotal battle in the post or the possibility of the Lakers going hyper-small to counter Swanigan’s presence.
5) The game could hinge on a battle between G League MVPs
Vander Blue has hit his stride right at the finish line, averaging 20.7 points in his last three games while hitting some clutch shots along the way.
Blue, the reigning NBA G League MVP, is the best slasher in his league and has flaunted that ability with the Lakers, while also sprinkling in some smart passes off of his drives.
The Blazers, meanwhile, just received a huge performance from Blue’s MVP predecessor, Jarnell Stokes, who put up 22 points and 15 rebounds in their 19-point comeback over Memphis in the semifinals.
While Blue — who will look to celebrate his birthday with a Summer League title — and Stokes aren’t the headliners and won’t match up against one another, both have the talent and experience to tip the balance of this game.
Tip-Off: 7 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet and Spectrum Deportes in L.A. ESPN nationally
Radio: ESPN 710