In his first two Summer League appearances, Lonzo Ball showed off the world-class passing ability that made him the No. 2 pick in the draft.
With the Lakers facing elimination on Wednesday, he proved more than capable of lighting the scoreboard all by himself.
Ball erupted for 36 points — 15 of which came in the fourth quarter — while finding time to add 11 assists, eight rebounds, five steals and two blocks.
Ball’s all-around dominance led the Lakers’ 103-102 comeback over Philadelphia, setting up a matchup in the second round of the Summer League tournament against Cleveland on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. PT.
“He was special tonight,” Summer League head coach Jud Buechler said. “Obviously this was his best performance so far.”
Buechler felt that the team started without energy against a Philadelphia squad missing first-overall pick Markelle Fultz (sprained ankle).
But Ball kept the team afloat early with his passing, including two gorgeous outlet heaves to Kyle Kuzma — one of which looked like Ball could play quarterback for the L.A. Rams or Chargers.
Ball — who missed the previous game with a sore groin — needed little time to readjust to his teammates, firing six assists in the first quarter alone.
“He’s already one of the best passers I’ve seen at this level,” Buechler said. “That’s kind of big words, but he can really pass the ball.”
However, carelessness with the ball and lax defense allowed the Sixers to take the lead and push it as high as 15 in the third quarter.
At the behest of head coach Luke Walton, who wanted Ball to be more aggressive, the Lakers’ point guard took the rock into his own hands.
Ball had only eight points at halftime, but he played every second of the final two quarters and made the most of them.
Philadelphia had trouble keeping the 6-foot-6 teenager from slashing into the paint, both in transition and half-court sets. His aggressiveness also helped him draw 12 free throw attempts (making nine) after being absent from the charity stripe in both of his first two summer games.
“My (outside) shot’s obviously not going in,” said Ball, who went 12-of-22 but 3-of-10 on 3-pointers. “So it helps that I can just go to the basket and get some easy ones.”
Ball’s back-to-back buckets trimmed the Sixers’ lead to four with seven minutes remaining, and he still had plenty left.
With 2:20 to go, Ball dunked an inbounds lob from Caruso to trim the deficit to 97-94.
Furkan Korkmaz responded with a 3-pointer, and Ball answered back by driving to the hoop, drawing the defense’s attention and kicking out to Kyle Kuzma for a corner triple.
After the Lakers’ defense came up with a stop, they went right to Ball, who backed down his defender and hit a layup through contact. He added the and-1 free throw for a one-point lead with 21.2 seconds left.
Larry Drew II gave the 76ers the edge again with a layup, and all of Thomas & Mack center expected Ball to be the one to attempt the winning shot with 5.9 seconds on the clock.
Instead, Kuzma, the inbounder, made a great read and passed to Ivica Zubac, who had an open path to the hoop.
Philadelphia fouled Zubac — who entered this contest with only 20 points in three games — but it was of no use. Zubac broke out of his slump with 21 points on the night and kept calm at the free throw line, sinking both shots.
The Sixers were unable to get a final shot off, eliminating them from Summer League title contention.
Ball, who wore Kobe Bryant’s “Kobe A.D.” shoes instead of his own signature pair, gave the Lakers legend a shoutout, saying he had the “Mamba mentality” that night.
For someone who eclipsed his collegiate career-high by a dozen points, Ball sure looked like he had Bryant’s scoring mind set.
“That’s how a point guard has got to play,” Zubac said. “He leads the team on the court.”
Ball earned himself another opportunity to lead the Lakers closer to the summer championship, which is all he has on his mind.
“It’s only the first one,” Ball said. “We gotta keep going. (It’s) the first round. We gotta wait till the ‘ship.”
Kuzma — who missed Monday’s game due to cramping — had 13 points, a game-high 12 rebounds, four assists and two blocks. … The Lakers waived wing David Nwaba earlier that morning. … Korkmaz (19 points) and Larry Drew II (15 points, eight assists) led Philadelphia.