In a highly anticipated matchup at Las Vegas Summer League, the Boston Celtics took down the Los Angeles Lakers 86-81. Jayson Tatum and Lonzo Ball did battle in front of a decidedly pro-Lakers crowd in the first ever sellout of a Summer League session.
After an extremely slow start, one that saw Boston go scoreless for nearly the first four minutes of the game, the Celtics defense got them back in it. Boston started a point guard-less lineup of Ante Zizic, Jayson Tatum, Semi Ojeleye, Jaylen Brown and Abdel Nader and they paid for it on offense. No one was able to generate open looks and the ball stuck far too often. Demetrius Jackson, who sat out the last two games in Utah Summer League presumably as part of trade talks, came in and settled things down. From there the Celtics chipped away and took the lead in the second half.
Tatum had another impressive offensive night with 27 points on 9-of-19 from the floor and 8-of-8 at the free throw line. He hit several tough jumpers, along with some good finishes at the rim. Best of all might have been Tatum’s rebounding, as he pulled down 11 rebounds, including several in traffic.
Jaylen Brown came back from a tough start to score 11 points, with several nice plays off the dribble. His jumper was off, as he hit just 4-of-13, but he then made plays off the bounce.
Semi Ojeleye showed off his versatility, as he guarded everyone from Ball to Ivica Zubac. He has a solid base and good footwork, which aids his ability to guard multiple positions. He also had a solid offensive game, as he scored 19 points, including 5-of-9 from behind the arc.
It wasn’t all great for Boston though. Zizic really struggled once again defensively. Summer League isn’t really a place where a system player like Zizic can shine. Once he’s in Boston’s solid system on both ends, his play should pick up. But this serves as a bit of a warning for those fans who are expecting him to be a major contributor right away.
Nader also had a tough game. He did get to the line several times hitting 10-of-12 free throws, but all too often drove to the rim with reckless abandon and had no idea what to do when the help came. The Celtics seem to be challenging him to work on his playmaking skills this summer and this is the environment to do so.
Ball was impressive, with a triple-double of 11 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. He is clearly a gifted passer and ball handler, but his shot will need to improve or defenders will play off him at the NBA level.
Kyle Kuzma also stood out for the Lakers. He scored often inside and outside and finished with 31 points. He shoots an easy ball and the Lakers may have a bit of a steal on their hands.
While it is important to remember that this is just Summer League, any win over the Lakers is to be enjoyed. The Celtics next play tomorrow night vs the Portland Trail Blazers at 8:30 EST on ESPN2.