The much-anticipated rematch between Lonzo Ball and De’Aaron Fox was put on hold, but the rest of the Lakers’ Summer League team made sure to put on a show for the fans in Las Vegas.
Ball — who wanted to play but was held out as a precaution — sat out due to a sore right groin. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Alex Caruso, who took advantage of this platform by endearing himself to Lakers fans with several game-changing plays.
Caruso finished the night with 18 points, nine assists and four steals, leading the Lakers to a 95-92 win.
“Stories like this game right here is what Summer League is about,” said Blue, who played last season for the NBA G League’s Oklahoma City Blue.
And everybody wanted to be part of Caruso’s story Monday night, as he said his phone was receiving endless notifications from Lakers fans trying to contact him on Instagram after the game.
Behind nifty passing and 3-point shooting from Caruso, the Lakers (1-2) ended the first half on a 25-8 run and pushed their lead to as high as 28 points in the third quarter.
“I know that I can play basketball,” Caruso said. “I believe in myself. Once I just started making shots early, I knew it was gonna be a good night.”
But with Ball, Kyle Kuzma (cramps), Josh Hart (sprained ankle) and Brandon Ingram (cramps) watching from the sideline, the shorthanded Lakers allowed the Kings to rally.
Frank Mason III led the way with 25 points while Buddy Hield added 22 of his own, as Sacramento (0-3) improbably took a 79-77 lead with five minutes left.
With Caruso fatigued in the final quarter, the Lakers turned to NBA G League MVP Vander Blue, who delivered by scoring 10 of his 21 points in the final frame.
“We tried to let him kind of finish the game,” Caruso said. “That’s what he does. He’s an instant offense kind of guy.”
Blue hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with four minutes to go, then helped fend off an onslaught from Hield, who drilled three straight triples.
After Hield’s final trey cut the lead to one with 38 seconds remaining, Blue drew two defenders before firing a pass to Thomas Bryant for a slam dunk.
Hield attempted to tie the game on the next possession, but David Nwaba’s lockdown defense forced the First Team All-Rookie selection into an airball.
Thus, a final two-minute stretch that featured 18 points scored by both teams combined ended in a Lakers victory thanks largely to Blue and Caruso.
“I’m just trying to show everybody every day who I am as a person and a player,” said Blue, who has spent the last three years on the South Bay Lakers.
The Lakers’ top four scorers — Blue, Caruso, Nwaba and Wear — all spent the majority of last season in the NBA G League. With the exception of Nwaba, none had received an abundance of playing time through two games at Summer League, leaving coach Jud Buechler impressed with their readiness.
“Those guys that hadn’t got any burn got out there,” Buechler said, “and, I thought, really showed they could be professional basketball players.”
Nwaba had 13 points and nine rebounds. … The Lakers shot 12-of-30 from 3-point range. … Ivica Zubac was held to eight points (2-of-6) and zero rebounds in 23 minutes. … Fox scored 12 points with one assist, while fellow first-rounder Justin Jackson had 16 points.
A post shared by Los Angeles Lakers (@lakers) on Jul 10, 2017 at 8:36pm PDT