Fifteen shots. Thirteen misses. Lonzo Ball knew that his Summer League debut wasn’t a true indication of his game.
After Friday night’s rough outing, he promised to bounce back Saturday. Indeed, he smashed outside expectations by taking over all facets of the game with a triple-double in only 34 minutes against the Boston Celtics.
Ball dished out picturesque passes, fought for boards and scored just enough to make it a symmetrical, 11-point, 11-rebound, 11-assist night. But the number he was most concerned with was the final score: 86-81 Boston.
“Until we win, I’m not gonna be happy,” Ball said.
With Brandon Ingram — scorer of 26 points on Friday — resting the remainder of Summer League due to leg cramping, Ball took over as Los Angeles’ leader.
His pre-game prep began 4 1/2 hours before tip-off, when he visited a local high school to get warmed up.
It payed dividends from the start, as he hit a 3-pointer on his first attempt and guided the Lakers to a quick 11-0 lead.
Ball really got it going in the second half, as a sold-out Thomas & Mack Center went wild as he served up no-look, outlet, bounce and every other kind of pass.
“His fingerprints are all over the stat sheet and what we’re doing out there,” Summer League head coach Jud Buechler said.
Ball took the game into his hands late, as the Lakers trailed by by five with five minutes left.
Ball found Kuzma open for a 3-pointer and then got out in transition after David Nwaba forced a steal. He took it himself the rest of the way for a layup that tied things at 72 with 2:35 left.
But the Lakers ran out of offense from there, as Boston scored the next eight points to salt it, sending L.A. to two losses in as many games at Summer League.
Nonetheless, Ball, who cemented his triple-double with a one-handed slam in the final minute, was the story of the night.
“It was a big comeback game for him,” Buechler said. “I was really happy for him. You could just tell at times he was more comfortable.”
Buechler applauded the 19-year-old point guard for making such successful adjustments only 24 hours after his unsightly opener.
Still, there’s plenty of work to be done for the second-overall pick. Teammates let him know that he was being too unselfish at times, as he even passed on open layups and dunks to feed his fellow Lakers.
Plus, his jumper is still off the mark, having gone 5-of-13 from the field and 1-of-5 on 3-pointers.
“My shot’s off, but everybody that knows me (knows) I’m gonna keep shooting,” Ball said. “My confidence is there. I just gotta hit them.”
Fortunately for the Lakers, Kuzma had no problem knocking down his shots.
The 27th pick piled up 31 points and drained five triples along the way. He wasn’t shy about getting his buckets, hitting 12 of his 26 shots while still finding the energy to track down nine rebounds.
“When he gets it going, he can really light it up,” Buechler said.
Much of this success could be traced back to the open looks he was receiving from Ball, who assisted on half of Kuzma’s baskets.
“If you’re a basketball player,” Kuzma said, “that’s a person you want to play with.”
Josh Hart had 15 points but left the game in the fourth due to a mild right ankle sprain suffered when scoring a transition layup. … David Nwaba had 13 points, eight rebounds and several highlight dunks. … Boston was led by Jayson Tatum (27 points, 11 rebounds) and Semi Ojeleye (19 points, five 3-pointers).
Let it hang Kuz!!
A post shared by Los Angeles Lakers (@lakers) on Jul 8, 2017 at 6:39pm PDT