Lakers Two-Way Players Make Summer Debut
Amidst the free agency flurry going on with the senior squad, a group of young NBA hopefuls on the Lakers Summer League squad tipped off their exhibition schedule with an 80-78 loss to Miami in Sacramento’s California Classic.
The Lakers played hard in their first competitive action as a group, which made up for the expected lack of cohesion, and they maintained a lead for most of the game before Miami battled back and emerged with an 80-78 win.
Within hours of announcing their new two-way contracts between the Lakers and their G-League affiliate, the South Bay Lakers, Austin Reaves and Joel Ayayi made their debuts in the starting lineup, and both played well against the Heat.
“First NBA game, they showed up,” said Lakers Summer League coach Quinton Crawford, who’s been with Frank Vogel since his stint in Orlando. “You gotta respect their energy, their competitiveness. They’re two of the most competitive guys on this roster.”
Reaves hit 4 of 7 FG’s towards 11 points plus six boards, two assists and three blocks while creating several opportunities for teammates that didn’t all result in assists in 27 minutes, as LAL shot just 37.7 percent from the field. He also just missed what would have been a buzzer-beating three.
“He’s super under control,” said Crawford of Reaves. “Hard to speed him up, even with Miami’s full court pressure and physicality. For his first NBA game, he really showed out well for himself.”
Austin Reaves said he grew up a huge Kobe fan. He’s from a small town in Arkansas, where he said not many people get this kind of opportunity. He’s super excited to be with “the best organization in basketball,” and cited Alex Caruso’s path from the 2-way deal as a hopeful model.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) August 4, 2021
Ayayi added eight points with three boards and a steal in his 24 minutes.
“Ayayi does what he does. This is who he was at Gonzaga … he’s going to make shots, he’s going to cut, he’s going to do (little) things. I’m glad he was successful doing it in his first game.”
“It was 100% appealing,” said Ayayi of the 2-way contract. "I’m really grateful for the opportunity. A bunch of guys have gotten callups from the South Bay Lakers and are playing in the league.
Asked about how his game can translate to the next level, Ayayi cited: “Spacing, cutting, energy, being able to guard … a lot of effort, a lot of energy. I’m a competitor. I hate losing and love winning, I’ll give you that every day.”
Back on the floor, it was all Miami early, as the Heat took a 13-3 lead as the Lakers settled into the game. But they responded quickly behind Reaves, who put his defender in jail at the nail before hitting a pullup, plus a foul, before getting buckets for both Devontae Cacok and Ayayi. The Gonzaga product then hit LAL’s first 3-pointer to close the margin to 15-9 into the first time out.
Texas Tech’s Mac McClung, who excited the crowd with some explosive pregame dunks, quickly scored two straight buckets in the paint after checking in, helping the Lakers get within a point at 15-14. He was key in a rally to close the first quarter that produced a 32-27 lead for LAL, quite the turnaround from the 11-point deficit.
McClung was aided by Michigan product Chaundee Brown Jr., who added seven first half points despite missing 4 of 6 FT’s, and looked solid on the defensive end.
Cacok, who spent the previous two seasons on 2-way deals with the South Bay Lakers and appeared in 21 Laker games with the Sr. squad, attempted a pair of top-of-the-key 3’s in the first half, as he looks to expand his game. LAL managed only four makes in 13 attempts from distance, however. He’d finish with a team-high 15 points, though on an inefficient 6 of 17 FG’s.
The third quarter saw a series of lead changes, with Miami managing to tie the contest up at 67 despite 17 turnovers to that point, thanks to a 51.9 to 40.7 edge from the field. Turkey’s Omer Yurtseven was doing damage to LAL, scoring 18 points with 15 boards, though he did have six of their turnovers.
LAL pushed their lead back to six midway through the final quarter, but a 6-0 Heat run, as Yurtseven hit his 3rd triple, and DJ Stewart converted an and-1, to tie the game at 72.
Late in the fourth quarter, Reaves hit a big triple with just over three minutes to play to put the Lakers up 77-72, but Miami battled back to take a 78-77 lead in the final minute with an alley-oop finished by Yurtseven, who finished with an impressive 27 points and 19 boards.
Reaves responded with a nice setup play for Cacok, driving deep into the paint before feeding a trailing Cacok for a floater, but Cacok came up just short. A possession later, Reaves was involved once again, grabbing an offensive board that led to two Cacok free throws with 17.4 seconds left. He split the pair, and Yurtseven converted a pair of free throws to put the Heat up two, which was enough for the win as the 3 from Reaves didn’t go down.
The Lakers are back in action against the Kings at 8 p.m. on Wednesday evening.
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