Just like we got in the 2018 NBA Playoffs, the Finals of the Las Vegas Summer League will feature a rematch from a year ago. Both the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers rolled through Sin City with undefeated 6-0 records, pitting them against each other for the second-straight year.
The Lakers were victorious in 2017, earning a 110-98 win, and while most of the names are different this time around, LeBron James’ newest team still has plenty of firepower. So, too, do the Blazers. They tout a balanced attack, a bevy of first round picks and, like the Lakers, are scoring at will.
Let’s break down both sides of this one and pick a side on both the spread and over-under (provided by 888sport) on the final game of the 2018 Las Vegas Summer League.
Perhaps he was jolted by the news of LeBron James joining the Lakers, or he’s just making a Year 2 jump, but Josh Hart has been outstanding. He’s averaging a league-best 24.2 points on 47% shooting and is as close to a lock for MVP as one can get.
He scored 37 points in a double-overtime win over the Cavs in the semis and was joined shot-for-shot by second-round rookie Svi Mykhailiuk, who had 31 points on 12 of 20 shooting. Those two have picked up the slack of injured rookie Moe Wagner (knee bruise) and have been unstoppable from beyond the arc, making 39 of 95 attempts (41%).
31-year-old Jeff Ayres has benefitted the most from Wagner’s absence, scoring in double figures in four straight games while averaging 14.3 points and 6.3 rebounds. Xavier Rathan-Mayes and “veteran” Alex Caruso have done a fine job running the point for a Lakers offense firing all cylinders, averaging 94.8 points per game. They’ve scored 100+ points in back-to-back games (three total) and look nearly unstoppable.
We’ve written plenty about Portland’s balance, and it’ll be key to slowing down the Lakers. Caleb Swanigan had two quiet playoff games before erupting for 21 points and 16 rebounds in a semifinal win over the Grizzlies.
First round pick Anfernee Simons sat out and that allowed NBA vet Archie Goodwill to go off for 22 points, and the Blazers won despite Wade Baldwin going 2 of 13 with four assists and nine turnovers. He’ll need to be better. Jake Layman, their leading scorer, also had just four points in 12 minutes.
And yet, Portland still scored 97 points and won the game. Last year’s top 10 pick Zach Collins was a force down low and will look to finish the summer strong. Add in sharpshooters Gary Trent and John Jenkins and you’re looking at perhaps the one team that can match shot-for-shot with the Lakers right now.
But we’re going with the Lakers. They’ve been the best team in Las Vegas from start to finish and Hart is determined to finish this one off like his teammates Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma did a year ago.
Plus, if Portland has shown any weaknesses it’s defending on the wing, meaning Hart and Mykhailiuk should be in line for big games once again. That is, if they can fight the fatigue of playing in a third consecutive game (although Portland is doing the same).
We’ll also play the over here. That fatigue could force a lower scoring game if guys are short on their shots, but the Lakers are filling it up and the Blazers have multiple scorers they can go to, riding the hot hand if one or two of their primary scorers are off.
A game in the 90s wouldn’t at all be surprising and would easily tip the scale on this one going over. Underdogs have fared well in Vegas this summer, but the Lakers in a high-scoring affair feels like the most likely outcome.
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