Six months before leading the Lakers to the 2017 Summer League championship, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma went head-to-head in a battle between First Team All-Pac-12 selections.
Ball’s fourth-ranked UCLA Bruins entered Salt Lake City with a 17-1 record, but Kuzma and the Utes (12-4) had plenty of reason to expect an upset.
However, it was Lonzo who set the tone from the very first possession, immediately splashing an NBA-range 3-pointer. Still, Kuzma had an answer for his future teammate, also nailing a triple on his first shot.
The tightly-contested battle was on from there.
Ball took 10 minutes before attempting his next shot, instead preferring to set up his teammates, including on those full-court outlet passes that had Lakers fans drooling at Summer League.
Still, he managed to get his own buckets here and there, including on a fast-break alley-oop layup that made it easy to see why he shot 73.2 percent from inside the arc (the third-best two-point percentage in the nation).
The future Lakers finally switched onto each other on the final possession of the half. Kuzma won the initial battle, walling Ball off from the basket and forcing a missed layup.
However, Lonzo managed to snag his own offensive rebound. He was immediately swarmed by Utah defenders, but — in a moment of composure often seen at Summer League — nonetheless managed to find an open Bryce Alford for a straightaway 3-pointer to end the half.
Thanks to Ball and Alford, UCLA took a two-point led into the locker room, but Utah roared back.
Kuzma began the second half with a fierce put-back slam and soon began exploiting the Bruins’ 3-2 zone by scoring and facilitating from the middle of the floor.
The power forward’s work against the zone helped him finish the night with six assists, while also collecting two dimes off of heady inbounds passes from underneath the hoop.
With Kuzma and co. finding their grooves, Utah scored 11 unanswered points to seize a 51-42 lead early in the second half. But Ball had just the answer, ending the run with a contested triple while falling down from contact.
He stayed in attack mode from there, coming up with a pair of near-identical plays, as he turned a couple of steals into breakaway slams (including one right in front of Kuzma).
With Ball helping turn the momentum, UCLA took a one-point lead with 72 seconds left. Controversy between future Lakers ensued, as it appeared Ball fouled Kuzma on what would have been a lead-stealing put-back slam.
Kuzma got another chance at winning it with three seconds left, but his contested, go-ahead 3-pointer just missed the mark, as Ball’s Bruins survived with an 83-82 win.
Despite the final outcome, Kuzma performed admirably, notching a 15-point, 11-rebounds double-double while adding six assists — including a full-court touchdown pass at the end of regulation — against zero turnovers.
But the night belonged to Ball, who went the distance for the first time in his career, playing all 40 minutes while piling up 17 points, eight assists, six rebounds, five steals and one turnover in his lone collegiate meeting with his future teammate.