Next time the NBA fills up Christmas Day with basketball, make sure batteries are included on both sides.
The Lakers could have played in their stockings and won this one over Dallas. Their 138-115 victory followed Miami’s 13-point stroll past New Orleans, Milwaukee’s 39-point embarrassment of Golden State, and Brooklyn’s ominous 28-point waltz in Boston.
It’s not unusual to have Christmas games serve as background music instead of actual dramatics, and it wouldn’t be bad, either, if this were a year when the family could gather ‘round. Although the players aspire to get network exposure, they’re as protective of their special days as anybody else. When one team falls behind, it’s easier to punt its best effort to a more secular occasion.
But you can’t blame the NBA for playing as many games as it can whenever it can, seeing what might be awaiting as the winter deepens. On Friday, the Lakers just had fun matching up their new ornaments.
This was the Lakers’ highest-scoring performance since Dec. 8 of last year, when Anthony Davis put 50 points and they throttled Minnesota 142-125. They certainly weren’t offensively challenged in their championship season, but they can score far easier in their half-court offense with Montrezl Harrell and Dennis Schröder in the crew, especially if Kyle Kuzma keeps looking this good.
Harrell, Schröder and Kuzma shot 23 for 35 against the Mavericks, and Harrell’s five offensive rebounds helped the Lakers outscore Dallas 35-0 on second-chance opportunities, which hasn’t happened in the NBA since such records were kept.
Their strong push meant Davis could work fewer than 31 minutes and LeBron James fewer than 32, a rest they earned after a strong first quarter.
“Five or six guys are able to come in and get you 20,” Kuzma said. “We’ve got guys ready to come in and take a game over.”
It might be the closest thing to a shadow starting lineup since 1984, when Pat Riley often began games with Bob McAdoo, Jamaal Wilkes, Michael Cooper and Mitch Kupchak sitting beside him. Here, the Laker reserves scored 55 points and sank 10 of 16 3-point shots.
Nobody actually wants to see the Lakers experiment with this, but if James or Davis had to miss extended time, couldn’t they still finish high in the West? One would assume Jalen Horton-Tucker, among others, would eat up those available minutes, and we’ve barely seen the tip of Wesley Matthews’ game in this 1-1 start.
“I can see, with this team, that I can go into the lane and put pressure on the other team,” said Schröder, who left no doubt that he would be thrilled to sign a contract extension “as long as it’s fair for both sides.
“When I do that, nobody is really helping,” Schroder added. “Everybody else on the court draws a lot of attention.”
The Mavericks (0-2) got 27 points and seven rebounds from Luka Doncic, but they needed more, or at least needed him to do it differently. Coach Frank Vogel had Schröder guard Doncic much of the time and then called in bigger helpmates when the shot clock began dwindling.
Doncic was only 7 for 16 in the first three quarters, and Vogel was pleased the Lakers kept him from digging in at the 3-point line. He went 2 for 4 from deep, and had only four rebounds.
“You try not to overhelp and open up the 3-point game for all their guys,” Vogel said. Add the Mavericks’ 13-for-32 shooting on longballs, and those are winning numbers against the preseason favorite for league Most Valuable Player.
“I guarded Luka quite a bit when I was in Oklahoma City,” Schröder said. “We did a great job of putting him under pressure in the beginning, although we slipped a little bit later.
“I gotta play defense because it gets me into my offense. I think it’s 60, 70 percent of my game. If I play 94 feet with energy, my teammates can see that we’re all into it. That’s what I’ve done my whole career.”
Harrell is also doing the same things that earned him the league’s top Sixth Man award last year, an honor for which Schröder contended as well.
“The only thing to say about him (Harrell) is that he catches everything and he scores everything,” Vogel said, smiling. “We’re trying to give our depth enough reps, and trying to manage LeBron, but it started tonight with LeBron and AD playing at a high level.”
As they know each other better, the Lakers probably will give you lots of nights like this, lots of games that get wrapped up earlier than your gifts probably were.
Los Angeles Lakers injured guard LeBron James cheers his team during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Nuggets won 128-104. James sat out the game because of a thoracic muscle strain. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis dunks against the Denver Nuggets during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Nuggets won 128-104. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
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Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, left, dunks against Denver Nuggets center Mason Plumlee during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Los Angeles Lakers guard LeBron James, left, talks with guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Los Angeles. LeBron James sat out the game because of a thoracic muscle strain. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, left, and Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray reach for a loose ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis is fouled as he shoots between Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr., left, and center Mason Plumlee during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard, center, defends the basket against Denver Nuggets forward Paul Millsap, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Los Angeles Lakers guard Rajon Rondo, right, attempts a layup against Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone, center, applauds as his team extends their lead against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Nuggets won 128-104. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Denver Nuggets center Mason Plumlee scores following a lob pass over Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard during the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Nuggets won 128-104. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, left, and guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope reach for a rebound against Denver Nuggets guard Malik Beasley during the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Nuggets won 128-104. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, left, and Denver Nuggets forward Paul Millsap fall to the ground after a foul by Davis during the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Nuggets won 128-104. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Denver Nuggets guard Malik Beasley shoots a layup past Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis during the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Nuggets won 128-104. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris, front, passes under Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis during the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Nuggets won 128-104. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis falls into the crowd while chasing a loose ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Nuggets won 128-104. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris goes for a fast break dunk as Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis pursues during the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Nuggets won 128-104. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
LOS ANGELES — The Thoracic Bruise Telethon will begin shortly. Give until LeBron James doesn’t hurt any more.
James was out Sunday night, officially day-to-day with an injury that one hopes isn’t as painful as it sounds. If he doesn’t get back for the Clippers game on Christmas Night, several TV and NBA executives will be evaluated, too, for symptoms of apoplexy and severe hypertension.
Instead of sharpening their antenna without James, the Lakers played like strangers. They suffered 17 turnovers that cost them 20 points, and their defense was chasing the ball all night. They leaned on Anthony Davis, who came up typically big with 32 points and 11 rebounds, but their walkabout was severe enough for a 128-104 loss to Denver, which piled up 36 and 37 point quarters in the second half and had 31 assists on 45 field goals.
“I’m proud of the unselfishness of our guys,” said Malik Beasley, who scored 16 off the bench in 21 ½ minutes for Denver (20-6).
“The lights in L.A. are big, and sometimes you can get selfish and do what you want to do, but tonight we played together and got the win.”
The NBA is so star-driven that nobody pretends a 4-time MVP won’t be missed, or that the Lakers could even compensate for the loss.
“We hadn’t been through this before,” Troy Daniels said. “The guys were trying to figure out where to get shots from, be more aggressive, and it was tough for us. The second team had to get a flow, too.”
Asked which of the maestro’s paintbrushes they missed more, coach Frank Vogel just laughed. “It’s hard to say with something like that,” he said. “All over. Offensive flow, defensive communication, quarterbacking, playmaking offensively, the ability to get guys good shots…Probably all that stuff.”
The ball movement suffers when you get 18 assists on 39 baskets, and when you shoot 10-for-29 from three-point range. The focus, which James has a way of improving with an evil-eye glance or maybe a sharp sentence, suffers when you make that many passes to nowhere, or just lose the ball to the more eager hands of the Nuggets.
“The turnovers have been a problem lately,” Vogel said.
Alex Caruso thought the general defense and the rebounding suffered, with Denver getting 10 offensive boards in that second half.
“We just got away from the things that are successful, the solid defense and the rebounding,” Caruso said. “We didn’t box out, myself included. We were a shell of ourselves at times, I thought.
“I think we had enough players without him to compete and win games. I really don’t think that was the issue tonight. It goes back to the same things.”
True, but you win few NBA games with two men in double figures (Davis and Kyle Kuzma, who returned to bring 16 points). And it’s not a cliche to say James brings so much more than his stats, because the stats themselves are so massive. A week short of his 35th birthday, he is leading the NBA in assists per game and can become the first Laker to do that for a season since Magic Johnson (1987). He would also the first player who is listed as a forward to win that title. Wilt Chamberlain led in total assists in 1968, but Oscar Robertson averaged more.
“Unless you’re on the court, people don’t really appreciate how vocal he is out there,” Caruso said. “We probably missed that a little bit, because he’s such a cerebral player. But it’s always up to us to fill that void.
“I think we got pretty much the same shots as we normally do. Maybe we would have gotten one or two more open looks. But there were times when people went to Anthony and we got open 3s in the corner, got swing passes for open shots. We needed to stay true to what was working, and we got away from that when the rebounds and the defensive mistakes piled up on each other.”
And suddenly the Lakers have a 3-game losing steak heading into the second Blessed Event of the season against the Clippers.
“We’re more than a third of the way through the season now,” Caruso said. “The games are getting a little bit redundant, they’re piling on top of each other. It’s a good time for us to re-engage ourselves, good for us to take a step back. It will be good for us in the long run, to cover up these weak spots, these lulls on defense and rebounding.”
It will be good, for the Lakers, whenever James and Davis play. Sometimes the truth is too simple to resist: The next NBA champion will be the one with the fewest stars in street clothes. Davis sent a murmur through the seats when he slipped on a wet spot as he was committing his fourth foul. He came out of the game and flexed his knee repeatedly. He did re-enter the game, but Vogel used the word “tweaked,” which can be a ominous euphemism.
“You can’t replace him with one person,” Caruso said of James. “He does what he does. He is who he is.”
The Lakers did not have to confirm the obvious so resoundingly.
The dress rehearsals are over. Tuesday night, one of the most anticipated seasons in recent NBA history tips off, and the Lakers and Clippers, intracity rivals who underwent headline-grabbing offseason changes, find themselves on the short list of contenders for the 2019-20 championship going into their season opener at Staples Center.
Neither side will be at full strength on Tuesday, the Clippers without All-Star forward Paul George and the Lakers without rising young star Kyle Kuzma, but it’s still a game that should give each side an early indication of how they might measure up and how they might go about countering certain matchups.
Having landed two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and George in one stunning July night, the Clippers open the season as the prohibitive favorite to win their first league title, both according to oddsmakers in Las Vegas and the annual poll of NBA general managers. When George returns, they’ll become a team with frightening potential on defense, especially on the perimeter.
The Lakers got four-time league MVP LeBron James the elite running mate he wanted, shipping away a slew of players and draft picks to unite him with big man Anthony Davis amid the hope that their mutual desire to play together results in unbeatable chemistry on the court. Even if it takes them some time to gel, a refreshed James knows it’s all about positioning themselves to be at their best in April, May and June.
SCNG beat reporters Kyle Goon and Mirjam Swanson have been covering both teams since before those seismic roster changes, and they’ve spent the months since writing about a variety of topics, giving our readers a chance to get to know some of the personalities who will take center stage this season, and the challenges both sides might face along the way.
Before that first jump ball is tossed, here’s another chance to catch up on some of what you might have missed:
STACKED OUT WEST: Beyond the Lakers and Clippers, Houston reunited James Harden with Russell Westbrook. Denver and Utah bring back strong cores, Portland might have the league’s best backcourt, and Golden State doesn’t sound ready to go away, even if the Warriors will have to wait a while to get Klay Thompson back. Here’s a team-by-team preview of the Western Conference.
TWO-TEAM RACE IN EAST? Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks were a couple wins from beating Toronto. The Philadelphia 76ers were perhaps a couple bounces from doing it one round earlier. Neither team was good enough to finish the job last season, but both think this is their time after Leonard returned to the Western Conference. They look like the favorites to represent the East in the NBA Finals – where they might have to deal with Leonard again. Here’s a team-by-team preview of the Eastern Conference.
CRACKING DOWN ON FAN BEHAVIOR: After high-profile incidents involving Russell Westbrook, DeMarcus Cousins, Kyle Lowry and others last season – including ones involving racist taunts – zero tolerance for abusive or hateful behavior is now to become the NBA’s policy going forward. The league is changing and toughening its code of conduct for fans, especially putting those in closest proximity to the players and the court on alert that anything over the line will lead to ejections and possibly more.
The ceremony will be pushed back to when the Lakers return Feb. 2.
“He was fantastic and we loved having him here,” coach Steve Kerr said of McGee’s two-year tenure with the Warriors. “Wish he was here and that we could give him his ring today, but we’ll do it next time.”
It would be the second ring McGee earned with the Warriors, part of two championship teams that dissembled LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavalier squads in 2017 and 2018. But McGee played a bit role on those teams, averaging under 10 minutes per game in his two seasons. While he had playoff moments, including a pair of starts against the Cavaliers in the Finals last year, he was largely a supplemental player.
With the Lakers, McGee has been integral, starting the first 29 games of the season and averaging 11.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. Kerr said he was “very happy” for McGee’s success in a larger role this season.
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Luke Walton said McGee had fought hard to try to make the game, but he wasn’t ready to play. He’s now missed five consecutive starts.
“Yeah, he needed more rest, wasn’t feeling it,” Walton said. “It’s one of those things: It’s a long season, and he’s a huge part of what we’ve been trying to do, so we’re gonna make sure he’s healthy and ready to go before we put him back out there.”
The Lakers returned to Los Angeles on Tuesday night and won’t fly to Sacramento until Wednesday evening. Walton said there was potential for McGee to make his return Thursday night against the Kings.
A 2-for-7 night from the field for most players might be normal, but for Klay Thompson, it was shockingly mortal.
Lately, it’s been a trend: The All Star wing (and son of former Laker Mychal Thompson) is shooting a career-low 33.7 percent from 3-point range. He hasn’t shot below 40 percent in any other NBA season.
Thompson’s slump has been much-discussed in Golden State circles, and he made only one 3-pointer on a night when the Warriors were shooting 25 percent from behind the arc. While the Lakers took pride in their improved perimeter defense from an ugly effort against Memphis, the Warriors seemed to take a deeper view of Thompson’s struggles lately.
“I know it will turn around,” Kerr said. “This game is funny. Life’s funny. Things go on and things happen and you just have to find your way out of the woods. Our job, as a staff, is to help our team do that when we are in a rut and to help individual players as well.”
LAS VEGAS — Josh Hart scored 19 points and Svi Mykhailiuk added 15 to lead the Lakers to a 69-60 victory over the Chicago Bulls in a Las Vegas Summer League game on Sunday night at Thomas and Mack Center.
Hart was just 5 for 15 from the field, but he was 4 for 7 from 3-point range. The second-year guard, who led the Lakers (2-0) with 24 points in Saturday’s victory over Philadelphia, added six rebounds, three assists and a steal as L.A. nearly led wire to wire.
Mykhailiuk was 6 for 12 from the field, including 2 for 6 from 3-point range. He added two rebounds, three assists and two steals in 22 minutes.
Rookie big man Moe Wagner was held to eight points on 4-for-15 shooting (1 for 9 in the first half), but he found others ways to contribute with 14 rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocked shots. Nick King added 12 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers and 19-year-old Isaac Bonga had four points and three rebounds in 16 minutes in his second game since signing his contract on Friday.
Hart was expected to play one game each in the California Classic event in Sacramento and in Las Vegas, but he played in two of the Lakers’ three games in Sacramento earlier this week and doesn’t appear eager to take a seat in Las Vegas.
The Bulls (1-1) committed 18 turnovers, shot just 30 percent from the field (21 for 69) and failed to score more than 17 points in any quarter. The Lakers led 35-29 at halftime and pushed the margin to 14 during the second half.
Matt Williams Jr. scored 12 points off the bench to pace Chicago. Wendell Carter Jr. had nine points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots, and Chandler Hutchinson finished with seven points and eight rebounds. No Bulls starter scored in double figures.
The Lakers are off Monday before facing the New York Knicks on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack Center.
LAS VEGAS — Second-year guard Josh Hart scored 24 points and rookie guard Svi Mykhailiuk added 17 points to lead the Lakers to a 96-79 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in their Las Vegas Summer League opener on Saturday night at the Thomas and Mack Center.
With Lakers Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and JaVale McGee, Coach Luke Walton and General Manager Rob Pelinka sitting courtside, the summer squad turned in its best performance so far, bouncing back from an 0-3 showing in the inaugural California Classic earlier in the week in Sacramento.
Ball and Kuzma were the stars of the show last summer, helping lead the Lakers to the Las Vegas tournament title and picking up tournament MVP and championship game MVP awards, respectively, in the process. But Hart and the rookies got them (and the usual partisan summer league crowd) out of their seats more than once on Saturday.
Hart, who is unlikely to play in all the Las Vegas games, was effective on both ends of the court. He scored five quick points and Mykhailiuk drained a pair of jumpers to help the Lakers open a quick 11-4 lead, and Hart held Philadelphia’s Furkan Korkmaz to just four points (1 for 9, 0 for 7 from 3-point range) a night after he made eight shots from beyond the arc in a 40-point effort against the Boston Celtics.
The Lakers took control in the second quarter, extending their lead to 45-33 by halftime. They kept the pressure on in the second half, pushing the margin to 23 at one point. The Lakers shot 44.4 percent from the field, but made nearly half of their 3-point attempts (14 for 31).
Hart finished 9 for 15 from the field, including 4 for 8 from 3-point range and helped the Lakers build a 23-point second-half lead against a 76ers team that struggled from the field all night (38.3 percent overall, including 3 for 29 from 3-point range). Mykhailiuk finished 6 for 11 overall (4 for 8 from 3-point range) and shared the team lead with nine rebounds.
Rookie big man Moe Wagner added 16 points, eight rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots in 26 minutes, throwing down a crowd-pleasing one-handed dunk off a steal but adding seven more personal fouls to his growing summer collection.
Issac Bonga, the 18-year-old second-round pick who just joined the team after signing his contract on Friday, struggled with three points, two steals and seven turnovers in 13 minutes.
Nick King added 15 points and five rebounds, and Xavier Rathan-Mayes had 10 points and three assists for the Lakers.
Rookie Zhaire Smith led the 76ers (0-2) with 16 points.
The Lakers take the court again on Sunday at 8:30 p.m. against the Chicago Bulls.
Lakers rookie center Moritz Wagner, left, shoots against Sacramento Kings rookie forward Marvin Bagley III, right, during the second half of an NBA summer league basketball game Monday, July 2, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. The Kings won 98-93. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Sacramento Kings guard Frank Mason III, right, is fouled by Los Angeles Lakers guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes during the second half of an NBA summer league basketball game, Monday, July 2, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. The Kings won 98-93.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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Los Angeles Lakers guard Demarcus Holland, right, goes to the basket against Sacramento Kings forward Justin Jackson during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game, Monday, July 2, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Sacramento Kings forward Marvin Bagley III, right, goes to the basket against Los Angeles Lakers guard Josh Hart during the second half of an NBA summer league basketball game, Monday, July 2, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. The Kings won 98-93. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox, left, and Los Angeles Lakers forward Johnathan Williams scramble for the ball during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game, Monday, July 2, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Sacramento Kings forward Devin Williams, right, battles for the rebound against Los Angeles Lakers’ Moritz Wagner, left, and Johnathan Williams during the second half of an NBA summer league basketball game, Monday, July 2, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. The Kings won 98-93. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Los Angeles Lakers guard Jeffrey Carroll dunks on a breakaway against the Sacramento Kings during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game, Monday, July 2, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox (5) goes to the basket against Los Angeles Lakers’ Demarcus Holland, left, and Johnathan Williams, center, during the second half of an NBA summer league basketball game, Monday, July 2, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. The Kings won 98-93. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Sacramento Kings forward Harry Giles III, right, commits an offensive foul against Los Angeles Lakers forward Nick King during the second half of an NBA summer league basketball game, Monday, July 2, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. The Kings won 98-93. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Marvin Bagley III, right, shoots over Los Angeles Lakers guard Josh Hart, left, during the second half of an NBA summer league basketball game, Monday, July 2, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. The Kings won 98-93. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Los Angeles Lakers guard Josh Hart, center, goes to the basket between Sacramento Kings’ Allerek Freeman, left, and Devin Williams, right, during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game, Monday, July 2, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. The Kings won 98-93. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
SACRAMENTO — Josh Hart picked up where he left off in the regular season and rookies Moe Wagner and Svi Mykhailiuk turned some heads, but the Lakers started summer league play with a 98-93 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Monday night in the California Classic at the Golden 1 Center.
Hart and Wagner led the Lakers with 23 points apiece, while Mykhailiuk added 15, going 6 for 10 from the field (3 for 6 from 3-point range). Wagner, a late first-round pick out of Michigan, added seven rebounds and went 6 for 17 from the floor (2 for 8 from 3-point range) but 9 for 10 from the free-throw line, drawing his share of fouls with strong head-fakes and fancy footwork on the block.
“I thought he did a great job of knocking down shots, early in the game setting the tone defensively,” Lakers summer league coach Miles Simon said of Hart, who was 7 for 15 from the field (4 for 7 from 3-point range). “He was super aggressive on the offensive end, which we love, and he also, in doing that, found a balance not only just scoring but getting us in our offense as a point guard, which is not a natural position for him to be in.”
Wagner’s second 3-pointer of the night followed consecutive 3-pointers by Mykhailiuk to pull the Lakers within two points with about a minute left. Kings rookie Marvin Bagley III, the No. 2 overall pick in last month’s draft, converted a three-point play at the other end, but Wagner answered with a long 2-point jumper.
The Kings made a free throw following Hart’s ejection (second technical foul), then added a Frank Mason 3-point basket with 22 seconds left to seal the victory.
The California Classic is a four-day, four-team event in Sacramento before all 30 NBA teams convene in Las Vegas later this week for the traditional summer league. Hart, who had a strong finish to his rookie season, including a 30-point, five-rebound, five-assist effort in the season finale against the Clippers, is not expected to play in the Lakers’ two remaining California Classic games, and he might play in just one of the team’s five guaranteed games in Las Vegas.
The game had its share of sloppy play on both sides, but Hart moved from shooting guard to point guard in the first quarter and promptly led a 9-3 run to turn a 15-15 tie into a 24-18 Lakers lead. Hart, who had five turnovers, scored all six points during a second-quarter run that gave the Lakers their largest lead of the night at 32-20. His buzzer-beating 3-pointer gave the Lakers a 54-48 lead at halftime.
Second-year point guard De’Aaron Fox led Sacramento with 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists (five turnovers), going 9 for 15 from the floor. Bagley finished with 18 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots – all on Wagner.
The Lakers face Miami on Tuesday at 6 p.m., take Wednesday off, then close the event with a game against Golden State on Thursday at noon.
Malik Newman (sprained left foot) and Joel Berry II (right ankle sprain) sat out Monday’s game.
Josh Hart and Moe Wagner dropped 23 to lead the team in scoring, but the Lakers fall to the Kings 93-98. pic.twitter.com/tH8A67iQCj
The top two free agents, James and George, have been teammates during All-Star Games but this offseason provides them the opportunity to play an entire season together.
While George has expressed interest in coming to Los Angeles and James is looking to find the right team he can finish out his career with, the glue that can hold this together and make it possible for a team like the Lakers would be Kawhi Leonard. The Lakers have reportedly re-engaged in trade talks with the San Antonio Spurs for Leonard. If Leonard is traded to LA, it could be the first of several dominoes to fall in the favor of the Lakers.