LAS VEGAS—The Los Angeles Lakers lost 86-81 to the Boston Celtics on Saturday night in Las Vegas, but the ball bounced the way of the purple and gold when zooming out on the night.
More specifically, Lonzo Ball bounced back with a triple-double that displayed exactly why the Lakers had drafted the 19-year-old with the no. 2 over all pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Ball still struggled to find his shot and only made one of his five three-point attempts, but his ability to push the pace and set up teammates could not be ignored. Led by Ball, the Lakers began making extra passes and playing basketball in its most beautiful form.
"The way (Ball) plays the game, you can't help but follow when someone plays like that," Lakers coach Luke Walton said to reporters at halftime of Saturday's game. "You see other guys on the team already making the extra pass that they weren't making last night, and that's leadership. I'm thrilled with the way they're playing right now."
When the final buzzer sounded, Ball had 11 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, one block and one steal in his second Summer League game, which was a notable improvement on his debut one night earlier, when the former UCLA Bruin missed 10 of his 11 three-point attempts and only made two of his 15 field goal attempts over all.
Adding to the impressiveness of Ball's bounceback game was the fact that the Lakers announced that Brandon Ingram would not play on Satuday night or at any future point of the Summer League after the 19-year-old cramped up in the loss to the Clippers and had been previously playing through a sprained ankle.
"We're just trying to protect him from himself a little bit," Walton said about the decision to hold out Ingram, who had looked like the best player on the floor by a great distance the night before.
Losing the best scorer on the squad, Ball faced even more pressure to perform on Saturday night in front of a sold out Summer League audience, most of whom were Lakers' fans. Coming off a nationally televised game and receiving harsh criticism from analysts on both coasts, the 19-year-old seemingly did not let the pressure get to him.
The first sign of how the night would go arrived when Ball stepped up and make his first shot, a three-pointer, before going on to set up fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma throughout the night. Just as he had looked to get the ball into Ingram's hands a night earlier, Ball identified Kuzma as his primary weapon and found the forward with every opportunity. The Michigan native scored a game-high 31 points.
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However, the Lakers did lose for the second night in a row, and the no. 3 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Jayson Tatum, led Boston with 27 points and 11 rebounds in the victory.
"Definitely felt better, better game, but we didn't get the win," Ball said after the game. "That's all we care about. Until we win, I'm not going to be happy."
During Summer League, winning and losing is not nearly as important as building chemistry and building confidence.
"It was a big comeback game for him," Lakers Summer League coach Judd Buechler said after the game. "I was really happy for him. You could just tell at times he felt more comfortable. The assists were there. He scored a little bit more."
Buechler added, "You could really see the adjustments he made from last night to tonight."
On Saturday, the scoreboard may have accurately listed the Celtics as winners, but fans of the Lakers and of Ball felt like winners, as their point guard of the future played with the skill, style and substance of a future superstar.