Here is what you need to know before the Lakers face the Dallas Mavericks in the Summer League semifinals.
1) This game will feature a duel between top-10 point guards
This game will feature one of the premier rookie vs. rookie battles of Summer League, as Lonzo Ball goes head-to-head against Dallas’ Dennis Smith Jr.
Ball has been the star of Las Vegas — on pace for the most assists in Summer League history (9.2 per game) while also averaging 16.4 points and 8.4 rebounds. Smith, meanwhile, has thrived in his role as well, leading the Mavericks in scoring (16.6), assists (3.8) and steals (2.2).
While both are 19-year-old point guards drafted in the top 10, the similarities grow thin from there.
Ball is already a masterful passer, fitting the ball through tight windows and seeing the floor seconds ahead of anyone else on it. Smith, while also a talented passer, is a more polished scorer than his purple and gold counterpart.
But perhaps the biggest difference is their overall demeanor. It will be interesting to see the clash of contrasting styles, as Ball always keeps an even keel — even when whipping full-court passes or hitting reverse layups — while Smith stays in attack mode for all four quarters, preferring to overwhelm opponents with his explosiveness and athleticism.
2) Kuzma continues to get buckets
The term “steal of the draft” gets thrown around a lot, but 27th-overall pick Kyle Kuzma is certainly making an early case for his candidacy.
The 21-year-old has been on a permanent heat check for the past few games, rising to sixth on the Summer League leaderboard with 20.0 points per game.
Kuzma’s buckets have been coming in ways that fit the Lakers’ system perfectly. He gets out in transition and makes a scrambled defense pay with his speed, and he spots up for 3-pointers and reaps the benefits of Ball and Alex Caruso’s playmaking.
After putting up at least 20 points in three of his five games, expect Kuzma to come out in scoring mode once again.
3) Vander Blue is hitting his stride
In his search for a spot on an NBA roster, G League MVP Vander Blue has put his talents on full display with the summer Lakers,
Blue — who played for Dallas’ summer team last year — has hit several timely, fourth-quarter buckets for the Lakers in this tournament, while averaging 13.8 points on a 48.2 percent mark.
The quarterfinals saw Blue dominate Brooklyn with his trademark slashing, as he finished the night with a game-high 27 points and zero turnovers.
4) The Lakers showed firepower in their quarterfinals match
The Nets swung first in Saturday’s matchup, scoring 63 points in the first half alone and leading by 10 in the early third quarter.
But the Lakers were able to match — and top — Brooklyn’s high-pace game plan, particularly by playing a four-guard lineup with Kuzma at center.
Blue led the comeback with 10 points in the third, while Kuzma finished with 26 on the night. The duo accounted for about a third of the Lakers’ offense as they dropped 115 points — nine more than any other team this Summer League.
5) The Mavs are on a quest for the perfect summer
The Mavericks have already beaten one-third of the NBA this summer, entering the contest with a 10-0 record in the Orlando and Las Vegas Summer Leagues.
In addition to Smith, the rest of their roster is stacked with NBA talent, including point guard Yogi Ferrell, who scored 20 points to lead their 91-74 rout over previously-unbeaten Boston in the quarterfinals.
Familiar foes also include Dorian Finney-Smith and Nicolas Brussino, as the Lakers look to hand Dallas its only loss of the summer.
Tip-Off: 5 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet in L.A. ESPN 2 nationally
Radio: ESPN 710