If there’s such thing as a coming out party in the summer league, that’s what Lonzo Ball had Wednesday night.
Ball scored 28 of his 36 points in the second half, dished out 11 assists and collected eight rebounds to lead the Lakers to a 103-102 comeback victory against the 76ers in the Las Vegas Summer League playoffs. He went 12 of 22 from the field, including 3 of 10 from 3-point range, and made 9 of 12 free throws.
It was the Lakers’ first victory with Ball in the lineup this summer, and they’ll advance to play the Cavaliers on Wednesday night.
Here are a few takeaways from the game:
The Zo Show
There’s one word that sums up Lonzo’s third summer league game: comfortable.
Ball looked like the player the Lakers expect him to be — pushing the tempo, making long lead passes to teammates, finishing at the rim when necessary and even hitting a couple of pullup 3-pointers. He provided plenty of highlights, but none more impressive than a full-court, one-handed pass to Kyle Kuzma for a dunk in the first quarter.
Hey, if basketball doesn’t work out, Lonzo could always test his arm as a quarterback.
Starting in the third quarter, Ball was the unquestioned alpha, scoring or assisting on seemingly every possession as the Lakers mounted their comeback. Ball even showed some uncharacteristic emotion after finishing an and-one to give his team the late lead.
Finishing at the rim
One of Ball’s faults in his first couple of games was that he was too unselfish. It’s not surprising — he’s a pass-first player always looking to get teammates involved — but it actually hurt the Lakers offense in those first two games. On Wednesday, Ball started off the same way, but once the Lakers fell behind he started doing what he needs to do to be successful in the NBA — he finished at the rim.
Ball had been driving and only looking to pass, and eventually the defense caught on and started backing off to cover shooters when he left his feet. But against the Sixers, particularly in the second half, Ball went all the way to the rim and was able to finish, scoring a good chunk of his points in the paint. This helped raise his confidence — which later allowed him to make a few heat-check pull-up 3s — and forced the defense to play him as a scorer, which re-opened the passing lanes.
The King is a fan
LeBron James was courtside for the game on Wednesday, and he told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman that part of the reason he showed up (and skipped out on the ESPYs) was to see Lonzo Ball play. LeBron, like the rest of us, was impressed by the way Ball distributed, saying, “He can really pass it.”
LeBron’s presence only served to fuel rumors that The King might be thinking about joining the Lakers when his contract is up in 2018. After the game, however, LeBron seemed to roast Lonzo for, not his signature Big Baller Brand ZO2s.
Too many TOs for Zo
Ball was the first too admit after the game that he didn’t take care of the ball well enough. As he pushed the pace and became more aggressive getting into the lane, Ball finished the game with six turnovers. He made it up on the other end with five steals, but it was clear that the quicker pace and more aggressive defenders of the NBA gave him some trouble in terms of taking care of the ball. It was a minor blip in an otherwise brilliant night, and it’s all part of the learning curve that he’ll continue to face all season long.