The Brooklyn Nets had their track spikes ready for their high-octane game plan. But the Lakers had the lungs to bolt ahead just before the finish line.
In the Summer League quarterfinals, Brooklyn initially stunned the Lakers with their breakneck pace, racking up 63 first-half points to take an eight-point advantage into intermission.
But Los Angeles countered at halftime by going small and even inserting a five-guard lineup to keep up with the Nets’ sprinters. At the end of the race, the Lakers had scored the most points of any Summer League team this year in their 115-106 victory.
“I think we tired them out a little bit,” said Kyle Kuzma, who dropped 26 points. “Their pace in the first half kind of killed us, and they were getting easy layups in transition and getting to the rim at will.
“They’re not a very good outside shooting team, but they were getting downhill on us. In that second half they missed a few, got a little bit tired, and we were able to capitalize.”
Summer League head coach Jud Buechler felt that his team lacked energy in the first half, but reigning NBA G League MVP Vander Blue had enough for everyone in the third quarter.
The South Bay Lakers stud scored 10 points in the period and capped off a 16-4 run with a breakaway, and-1 layup that gave the purple and gold a 74-72 lead.
L.A. pushed its advantage to 10 early in the fourth quarter, but Brooklyn still had some legs left, cutting it down to 103-101 with two minutes remaining.
But Blue stepped up once again, draining a contested 3-pointer. Alex Caruso then took the ball the length of the court for a layup before kicking it to Kuzma on the next possession for a corner triple that just about sealed it.
It was a passed endurance test against a Nets team featuring seven NBA players, including Caris LeVert (23 points), Spencer Dinwiddie (22 points) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (15 points, 13 rebounds).
Now winners of four straight, the Lakers will face the Dallas Mavericks — who are 10-0 at the Orlando and Las Vegas Summer Leagues — in Sunday’s semifinal matchup at 5 p.m. PT.
Blue — who suited up for the Mavs at last year’s Summer League — set Thomas & Mack Center on fire Saturday night. Using his trademark slashing, Blue put up a a game-high 27 points (10-of-16) with zero turnovers.
“I was able to get to the rim early and dictate my game,” Blue said. “Toward the end, I just knocked down some shots.”
Kuzma added his 26 points, four assists and pairs of steals and blocks, helping the Lakers advance on a night when Lonzo Ball wasn’t the dominant force that fans had come to expect over the last three games.
Ball finished with 14 points on 4-of-12 shooting. He did add nine rebounds and seven assists while limiting himself to three turnovers, though he had already spoiled the Lakers’ faithful by recording two triple-doubles and a 36-point outing in his previous three appearances.
Nevertheless, the second-overall pick contributed to the Lakers’ plan to push the pace themselves and spread the ball around, as the team finished with a 49.4 percent clip from the field, including a 14-of-26 mark on 3-pointers.
“We’re driving it in, we’re kicking it, we’re making the extra pass,” Buechler said. “We’re playing the way basketball is supposed to be played, and we’re having success with it. And it’s making it fun for all of us.”
Travis Wear led all players with four 3-pointers. … Matt Thomas scored 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting with eight rebounds. … Brooklyn shot 9-of-31 on 3-pointers.
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