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Las Vegas Summer League: Thornwell, Johnson Lead Clippers Over Lakers, 96-93

There weren’t a lot of revelations, but it was a strong performance.

NBA: Summer League-Los Angeles Clipper at Los Angeles Lakers Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

On the first play of the game, Lonzo Ball found a cutting Brandon Ingram for a back-door lob. With that connection, the new era of Lakers basketball had begun.

It’ll have to wait a little while longer to see its first win, however. The Clippers, led by strong performances from Brice Johnson and Sindarius Thornwell, came back from a double-digit deficit to defeat the Lakers 96-93 in overtime. Brandon Ingram, who was by far the Lakers’ best player today, suffered a minor leg injury (appeared to only be cramps) at the end of regulation and was pulled from the game as a precaution.

While basketball is a team game, summer league isn’t always much of one. These players have, in most cases, only had two or three days of practice together, and almost all of them are attempting to show their individual talents as they try to make an NBA roster or draw attention from European scouts. With this being the case, there isn’t a lot of need to look at the overall strengths and weaknesses of the teams involved in tonight’s game—instead, I’ll look at some notable individual performances:

  • Brice Johnson was just as impressive as you’d hope a first-round pick in his second summer league would be. He was disinterested in the first half, especially on the defensive end and the glass, where he lazily observed the Lakers’ bigs chasing down boards. In the second half, however, he thoroughly dominated the game, finishing with 23 points on 10-15 shooting, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 steals.
  • Sindarius Thornwell was equally impressive, scoring 26 points on 6-13 from the field and 14-18 from the free throw line. He was also impressive defensively against Brandon Ingram in the second half. Basically, Thornwell was who we knew he was—a strong, seasoned player who will bully smaller guards inside, get to the free throw line, and defend. That’s not to say his night was perfect, though—he was 0-4 from beyond the arc with 3 turnovers and 8 fouls. The shot, playmaking, and foul issues will have to improve—but it was as good a start as you could have hoped for.
  • Jawun Evans played just 9 minutes, scoring 3 points to go with a turnover and 2 fouls. He was only able to join the team yesterday when the Clippers’ trade to acquire him from the Philadelphia 76ers was finalized. As he spends a little more time with the team, I’d expect him to play more—and better—as the week goes on.
  • Kendall Marshall had a good performance, which is pretty much what a player with four years of NBA experience has to do if he wants to be taken seriously in summer league. He had 11 points on 2-3 shooting and also contributed 11 assists. While extended minutes for Marshall might block the Clippers from viewing their younger prospects, he’s capable of steadily running the offense, allowing the team to get better looks at the wings and bigs. Late in the game, Marshall became flustered by the pressure of the Lakers’ defense and LAC struggled to get quality shots down the stretch.
  • David Michineau was a non-factor in 3 pretty poor minutes of time. Teams typically rotate their lineups during summer league so that everyone gets chances—I expect we’ll get a larger sample size over the weekend.
  • Hollis Thompson, the flip side of Kendall Marshall, had a remarkably underwhelming performance for a 4-year NBA veteran. He was just 2-8 from the field, seemingly forcing on offense, and committed 5 fouls while playing lackluster defensively.
  • Of the guys on the team who aren’t Clippers prospects or NBA veterans, Jamil Wilson probably had the best game. He had 7 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 steals in 19 minutes playing as a sort of “glue guy.”
  • For the Lakers, Brandon Ingram had a really strong performance. It’s what you’d hope for from last year’s 2nd overall pick who will be a starter for the Lakers this season. Still, it’s nice to see an established young player really playing hard in the Summer League—he had 26 points and provided energy and leadership.
  • Lonzo Ball was remarkably poor for the Summer Lakers in his first game wearing the purple and gold. He had 5 points on 2-15 from the field (1-11 from deep), 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 turnovers, and 4 fouls. Lonzo’s going to be fine in the NBA, but from a Clippers perspective it was nice that he didn’t have some monstrous debut at our expense.

The Clippers’ next summer league game is Sunday at 5:00 PM Pacific Time against the Utah Jazz. It will be broadcast on NBATV.