As the NBA Orlando Summer League crowned a champion on Friday, the Las Vegas iteration kicked off its second annual tournament.
Featuring 24 teams and a slick, March Madness-esque bracket to capture the attention of the globe, the league on the West Coast got off to a hot start by showcasing some of the high-profile rookies set to take the NBA by storm, as well as a bevy of talent scratching and clawing its way toward a pro contract.
Over the course of 10 days, 67 contests will go down in what is quickly becoming the epicenter of the NBA offseason. Friday was a picturesque way to start things, with the No. 1 and No. 2 overall pick set to do battle, among other things.
Here's how it all went down.
Day 1 Results
|Matchup||Final Score||Leading Scorer|
|New York Knicks vs. Dallas Mavericks||NYK 76, DAL 64||Tim Hardaway Jr., 25|
|Toronto Raptors vs. LA Lakers||TOR 88, LAL 78||Jordan Clarkson & John Shurna, 21|
|Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Milwaukee Bucks||CLE 70, MIL 68||Andrew Wiggins, 18|
|Sacramento Kings vs. San Antonio Spurs||SAS 85, SAC 69||Quincy Acy & Austin Daye, 14|
|Golden State Warriors vs. Charlotte Hornets||GSW 70, CHA 58||Mickey McConnell, 19|
|NBA D-League vs. New Orleans Pelicans||NOP 83, DLS 81||Russ Smith, 20|
Las Vegas Summer League Standings
|Golden State Warriors||1-0|
|Los Angeles Clippers||0-0|
|Los Angeles Lakers||0-1|
|NBA D-League Select||0-1|
|New Orleans Pelicans||1-0|
|New York Knicks||1-0|
|Portland Trail Blazers||0-0|
|San Antonio Spurs||1-0|
New Orleans Pelicans 83, NBA D-League Select 81
Late-game heroics are usually reserved for the real NBA season and exciting finishes aren't usually reserved for Las Vegas, but Russ Smith had other ideas.
Smith scored a game-high 20 points, including a clutch drive and dish to Josh Carter for a game-winning three-pointer that pushed the New Orleans Pelicans over the D-League Select team, 83-81.
It was just the end of an epic comeback, as told by NBA:
Carter's three came with less than five seconds left, putting them in front after trailing 81-80 in the closing moments. A late push down the length of the floor by the D-League Select team didn't result in the game-tying basket.
Known across the country for his taking over games with Louisville in college, Smith proved that he's ready to make the next step. His 20 points came on 8-of-17 shooting, and he also finished second on his team with nine rebounds and dished a team-high five assists.
Here is one of Smith's best plays from his debut:
Josh Howard was also key in the Pelicans victory, scoring 14 points. Patric Young also added 11 off the bench for New Orleans.
The D-League Select was led by 15 points and 13 rebounds from Devin Ebanks along with 14 from Tony Mitchell. Three more players on the team finished in double figures, but it wasn't enough to hold off a furious late surge by Smith and the Pelicans.
Friday's night cap was worth the wait, as it was the most exciting of a tight and packed slate of games to open up play at the Las Vegas Summer League. It's only fitting that it came down to the wire and ended with a bang.
Golden State Warriors 70, Charlotte Hornets 58
The Golden State Warriors have made serious strides in the NBA hierarchy, but have assembled one of the best Summer League teams in the last few offseasons. That seems to be continuing this summer, as the Warriors looked impressive in a 70-58 win over the Charlotte Hornets.
Point guard Nemanja Nedovic was the star offensively for Golden State, finishing with 17 points on 4-of-6 shooting. He got to the free-throw line 11 times, converting seven and posted a plus-19 rating.
Nedovic certainly stole the show in this one, forcing Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell to question his placement on a team with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson:
Alongside Nedovic was Orlando Johnson and James Michael McAdoo, adding 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Mickey McConnell led all scorers with 19 points for Charlotte, and Josh Davis added 14 off the bench. But a ghastly team shooting performance—28.2 percent—and going 3-of-28 from deep as a unit was way too much to overcome.
Golden State squeaked in front early, leading by eight after the first quarter. But a 26-10 second quarter was the biggest difference, allowing the Warriors to blow open a 24-point halftime lead—unheard of for summer games.
The Hornets showed their resolve by making things competitive late, outscoring Golden State in the second half by 12 points. But it wasn't nearly enough to make up the deficit.
Charlotte will have Saturday off after the loss, but Golden State will be right back at it with an 8 p.m. ET tip against Phoenix.
San Antonio Spurs 85, Sacramento Kings 69
The San Antonio Spurs trailed for virtually all of the first half. But just like the real Spurs tended to do in their recent championship run, they used a dominant third quarter to get past their opponent.
A 30-11 third-quarter run was the difference on Friday, propelling the Spurs past the Sacramento Kings 85-69 in the Las Vegas opener for both teams.
As you'd expect, the Spurs took advantage of a deep pool of contributors to get the win. Five total players finished in double figures, while two of those came off the bench. In total, eight players finished with six or more points.
Pretty plays like this were common for the Spurs—no rarity for anyone who watched the NBA Finals:
With a heap of young talent like Ben McLemore, Nik Stauskas, Quincy Acy and Derrick Williams, the Kings enjoyed a balanced scoring slate as well. All five starters finished in double figures, with Stauskas and Acy leading the way at 14 apiece.
Stauskas, the Kings' lottery pick, looked quite dangerous at times. But he did get swatted rather emphatically in his first action:
Sacramento had a better day from the field shooting-wise, but sloppy play led to their demise. The Kings had 19 team turnovers, many of which came in that fateful third quarter.
As good as the action on the court was during the game, NBA captured some fancy jams being thrown down before the game:
Both the Kings and Spurs have Saturday off before taking to the court again on Sunday.
Cleveland Cavaliers 70, Milwaukee Bucks 68
It was a dream matchup on the first night of the Las Vegas Summer League—the No. 1 overall pick against the No. 2 overall pick. As you'd expect, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker both showcased huge NBA potential in their informal professional debuts.
The Cleveland Cavaliers outlasted the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday 70-68, but the final score might as well had been 18-17—the score between Wiggins and Parker.
The former Kansas one-and-done led all scorers with his 18, also adding three rebounds on 7-of-18 shooting. He showcased his leaping ability with a number of relentless drives to the net, and hit a number of mid-range jumpers despite shooting 1-of-8 from deep.
Here's Wiggins slipping free for a back-door dunk:
Parker had less of a shooting touch on Friday, but still notched 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting with nine rebounds. He was confident with the ball in his hands, finishing up and over Wiggins on a number of occasions.
One of Parker's most impressive plays of the game was this coast-to-coast finish:
Wiggins and Parker have been compared side-by-side before their college careers even began, and that should only intensify now after the two top players in the draft provided big performances Friday.
They were far from the only standout players on Friday. Second-year pro Giannis Antetokounmpo also notched 17 points for Milwaukee.
The Cavs were propelled first and foremost by Wiggins' 18, but another No. 1 pick impressed as well for Cleveland. Anthony Bennett scored 15 points and added seven rebounds on 6-of-16 shooting.
Excitement was high for the game for obvious reasons, and it didn't disappoint. Wiggins and Parker stole the show with their own performances, but there was no doubt that both squads have a number of talented youngsters.
The first game of any rookie's Summer League slate is bound to include some struggles, and the debuts of Wiggins and Parker were no different. But for the most part, the two kings of the 2014 draft showed that they're every bit as good as the league expects.
Toronto Raptors 88, Los Angeles Lakers 78
Unfortunately for those surveying the action, one major new face in the NBA was sitting on the sidelines in a polo on Friday night to start the tournament.
Julius Randle, the No. 7 pick in the 2014 draft, was out of action because he has yet to sign a contract, something Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding says won't change for quite some time:
While disappointing, the Lakers had another big-name rookie on display—Jordan Clarkson, the No. 46 overall pick. The Missouri product posted 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting and tallied four rebounds and three assists, as well as the highlight of the contest:
Clarkson could not do it on his own, though. Kevin Murphy's 16 points off the bench was the only other notable contribution. That said, Murphy was the beneficiary of a nice transition assist:
On the flip side, the Raptors shot 49.1 percent from the field and had five players in double figures by the time the contest was over. John Shurna led the way with 21 points, and his ability to stretch the floor (5-of-8 from long range) was the biggest factor in his team's victory.
Bruno Caboclo, the No. 20 pick in the draft and subject to much scrutiny, was also impressive in his pro debut, as Jeff Borzello points out:
The Raptors were merely the most recent pleasant surprise, and the team-oriented approach bodes well for its fortunes as the tournament progresses.
New York Knicks 76, Dallas Mavericks 64
Let's just go ahead and get this brutality out of the way:
That was Eric Griffin of the Dallas Mavericks abusing Shane Larkin, a sophomore for the New York Knicks who should know to simply get out of the way in that sort of scenario. To his credit, though, Larkin did score 10 points and tally five rebounds and five assists.
Alas, the major dunk early in the proceedings did not translate to momentum for Dallas, as Bernard James—the team's leading scorer with 15 points—and Co. were unable to outscore the Knicks in any of the four frames.
The primary reason for the lopsided affair? Tim Hardaway Jr.
Hardaway, the lone bright spot for the miserable Knicks a season ago, managed to average 10.2 points per game before being named to the All-Rookie First Team.
Friday, he poured in 25 points on 6-of-15 shooting while grabbing five boards and dishing two assists. As Michael Gallagher of Yahoo Sports points out, the staff was letting Hardaway explore in areas he was unable to as a rookie:
While the Mavericks did not have any high-profile names in attendance, especially after not ending up with any picks in the 2014 draft, Hardaway was just the beginning for the Knicks.
Also on fire was intriguing rookie Cleanthony Early, who was taken in the second round at No. 34. He scored 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field and knocked down 3-of-4 from three-point range. Oh, and he got in on the highlight-worthy action, too:
For Early, it's a small step in the right direction after he felt he should have not slipped in the draft.
“You feel like someone might have overlooked you or slept on you,” said Early, via Scott Cacciola of The New York Times. “It was very humbling to know how it went down, and to know that I still have a lot of work left to be done.”
Often hailed as a project, even Thanasis Antetokounmpo looked strong with seven points and a frantic dose of energy off the bench for the Knicks on both ends of the court.
All things considered, it appears the Knicks have a mini Big Three set to take Las Vegas by storm. As the day and overall tournament progresses, it's clear that Las Vegas belongs to young players and rookies looking to leave their mark in their new roles.