LAS VEGAS—For the conclusion of Monday's game against the Sacramento Kings, the Los Angeles Lakers had more players one the court, five, than active bodies on the bench, four.
Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma all sat out Monday's game with various minor injuries, and P.J. Dozier soon joined them in the group of walking wounded after a tough fall left the guard limping.
Still, somehow, the Lakers beat the Sacramento Kings 95-92 after nearly blowing a 28-point lead. To be fair, few expected this Lakers' squad to have a 28-point lead to begin with.
The star of the game was Alex Caruso, who tabbed 18 points, nine assists and four rebounds to go along with four steals in 30 minutes of work. Caruso started in place of the injured Ball, and the 23-year-old looked hungry for the game time.
"I know that I can play basketball," Caruso said after the game. "I believe in myself, so once I started making shots early, I knew it was going to be a good night."
Caruso is a big 6-foot 5-inch point guard that went undrafted in 2016 and joined the Oklahoma City Blue, a team affiliated with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Lakers, however, found a roster spot for the Texan on the Summer League team, and a handful of injuries helped the former Texas A & M Aggie shine in the first half and down the stretch at the Thomas & Mack Center.
"We hadn't seen a ton of that type of level from him," Lakers Summer League coach Judd Buechler admitted after the game. "He obviously played well in camp, but that was next level stuff he was doing out there."
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On Monday, Caruso orchestrated the Lakers' offense, which recorded an assist on 22 of 32 made field goals. The play of the game arrived when Caruso forced a steal and chased a ball down before throwing up an inch perfect alley-oop to former UCLA Bruin Travis Wear.
In addition to Caruso, David Nwaba also stood out for the Lakers in Monday's victory, as the Los Angeles native scored 13 points to go along with nine rebounds, four assists, a steal and two blocks.
Off the bench, Vander Blue scored 21 points, as the 2017 NBA Development League MVP hopes to advance to the NBA rather than the newly rebranded G-League.
For Sacramento, Buddy Hield led all scorers with 22 points, as the crowd was seemingly split with Sacramento and LA fans. With every bucket down the stretch, one set of fans would cheer before the next bucket sent the opposing fans into a frenzy. While the two previous games may have been close and featured more future NBA level talent, Monday's game provided the most in-arena excitement and the best competitive flare of the Lakers' three Summer League games thus far.
Coincidentally, the Lakers also won on this occasion.
Next, the Lakers have Tuesday off before playing in the tournament portion of the Las Vegas Summer League. At a minimum, the Lakers are guaranteed two more games.