On the very first play of the very first game of Summer League, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram offered Lakers fans a preview of what could be on the horizon if both players reach their ceilings.
Ball, this year’s No. 2 pick, waited for Ingram to spring himself free from his defender before serving up a pinpoint lob that Ingram threw down for an alley-oop slam, igniting a packed crowd of purple and gold-clad supporters.
Yet from there, their paths diverged.
Ingram was a one-man offense who finished with 26 points, three assists and three steals. Ball, meanwhile, just couldn’t make good on his open looks, shooting 2-of-15 from the field in a 96-93 overtime loss to the LA Clippers.
Ball hadn’t played a competitive game in four months, but wasn’t about to use rust as an excuse.
“I felt all right,” Ball said. “Obviously I didn’t feel good enough (since) we didn’t win.”
Ball did affect the game with his other skills, handing out five assists while recording four rebounds and a pair of timely steals. And while he was happy with the looks he was getting, he simply couldn’t hit in a game where he missed 10 of his 11 3-point attempts.
“It was a tough night for him,” Summer League coach Jud Buechler said. “I’m pretty sure he’s pretty disappointed.
“He has not played a lot of full-court basketball since that last NCAA game. We’re not going to use that as an excuse. He needs to get better. But this was a hell of an atmosphere for his first game.”
Indeed, Thomas & Mack Center was electric, particularly after Ball and Ingram’s game-opening highlight.
While Ball struggled to find his rhythm, Ingram feasted on whichever Clipper was tasked with guarding him.
The 19-year-old sophomore appeared more comfortable handling the ball and displayed his knack for scoring at the rim that served him so well in the final month of his rookie season.
He dazzled all night long with an array of reverse layups and and-1 buckets, but Ingram saved his best for the end.
Down by two with 33 seconds left, Ingram fooled his defender with a crossover and then strode to the rim for the game-tying basket.
But he was far from done, as he came up with a steal on the Clippers’ final possession of regulation, giving he Lakers a shot at victory.
However, his ensuing mid-range jumper was just off the mark and his leg cramped up immediately after, causing a scary moment when trainer Marco Nuñez had to come out onto the floor to check him.
Ingram left the court on his own and wanted to return to the game, but Lakers president Magic Johnson, who was sitting courtside, waved his hands back and forth to signal that he wasn’t interested in taking chances with Ingram’s heath.
Nonetheless, it was an impressive night for last year’s No. 2 pick, who downplayed his success after a season of matching up against the likes of LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard.
“We’re playing against guys who just got out of college, so it’s nothing compared to the league,” Ingram said. “When you come out here you probably expect to play like this.”
With Ingram sidelined, the Lakers struggled to find offense in the two-minute overtime. Instead, the Clippers secured the win behind the foul-drawing talents of Sindarius Thornwell (26 points) and a strong mid-range display by Brice Johnson (23).
The Lakers’ 42nd overall pick, Thomas Bryant, had a strong debut with 13 points and five rebounds. He treated the crowd to a series of highlights, including a dunk off a no-look pass from Ingram and another and-1 jam. … NBA G League MVP Vander Blue had 11 points for the Lakers. … Ivica Zubac was held to five points. … Lakers Larry Nance Jr. and Corey Brewer were in attendance.
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