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NBA Summer League 2018 Championship: Early Preview for Lakers vs. Trail Blazers

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistJuly 17, 2018

Josh Hart of the Lakers is playing like a star in the NBA Summer League.
Josh Hart of the Lakers is playing like a star in the NBA Summer League.John Locher/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers will be playing in the NBA Summer League Championship Game after getting pushed to the limit and double overtime in the semifinals.

The Lakers beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 112-109 in Las Vegas on Monday, as shooting guard Josh Hart continued his stellar play with 37 points and nine rebounds. Hart received a huge assist from small forward Svi Mykhailiuk, who scored 31 points and made six of 11 three-point shots.

The Cavs got a huge game from rookie point guard Collin Sexton, who scored a team-high 27 points. He was joined by John Holland and Jamel Artis, who scored 17 points each.

Sexton keyed the Cavs' performance because he hit clutch jump shots in the fourth quarter that helped push the game into overtime and then did the same in the first overtime to send the game to the second extra session.

Los Angeles has played extremely well in the summer league for the second year in a row. The Lakers won the Las Vegas summer league title in 2017.

They are hoping to use the tournament as a jumping-off point for the 2018-19 season, one that promises to be much better for them since they have signed superstar LeBron James as a free agent.

Caleb Swanigan has been showing off his strength and skill for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Caleb Swanigan has been showing off his strength and skill for the Portland Trail Blazers.David Dow/Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers advanced to the championship game with a 97-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Blazers were able to take advantage of a superb effort from Archie Goodwin, who came off the bench to score 22 points in just 19 minutes of action. Goodwin made four of five shots from the field and was blazing hot from the line, where he made 14 of 16 free throws.

Former Purdue strongman Caleb Swanigan also performed well for the Blazers, as he scored 21 points and added 16 rebounds. The power forward made nine of 13 shots, and he had help from center Zach Collins, who contributed 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Portland was able to overcome a 27-point effort from Brandon Goodwin and a 23-point night from Kobi Simmons.

The Grizzlies could not compete with the Blazers' size and strength on the boards. Portland finished the game with a 43-25 edge in rebounds.

The Blazers and Lakers will meet Tuesday night in the title game in Las Vegas. The game is likely to come down to the speed and quickness of the Lakers against Portland's strength and power. Both teams are 6-0 to this point in the summer league and have shown quite a bit of depth and skill.

Hart has proved to be a go-to player who is making a bid to win a spot in the Lakers' starting lineup this season. If he can slice through the bigger, stronger Portland front line the way he did against the Cavaliers and throughout the summer tournament, the Lakers will be hard to stop.

However, Swanigan and Collins will make it very difficult for Hart to do that, and they will also try to keep Mykhailiuk in check because he has been a dangerous outside shooter.

     

Prediction

The Trail Blazers will make it tough on the Lakers to run their offense smoothly. Portland plays tough defense and has the physical players to slow down the Lakers offense.

However, Hart appears to be coming into his own, and he is playing with something to prove to the Lakers management and coaching staff. He wants to start this year, and he will find a way to help the Lakers get the win and earn the NBA Summer League title.

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