(AP) – Lonzo Ball’s dud of a debut is long forgotten. And on Wednesday night, so were his Big Baller Brand sneakers.
Now he has the best game of the NBA Summer League — and another playoff game for a chance to top it.
Ball had 36 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds and five steals to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 103-102 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in their opening game of the tournament stage.
The No. 2 overall draft pick came back from a one-game absence — and did so wearing Nike Kobe AD sneakers instead of a pair from the line that his father, LaVar, is marketing for $495 a pair. Then he brought the Lakers back from a 15-point deficit to claim a spot in the round of 16 on Thursday against No. 2 seed Cleveland.
Asked why he changed sneakers, Ball said it was “Mamba mentality,” referring to Kobe Bryant’s nickname.
“Just thought I’d switch it up,” Ball added. “Wore them tonight. It’s good when you can wear whatever you want.”
LeBron James was at the game and he noticed, posting a picture of the shoes on Instagram and writing “Just. Do. It.”
Ball was having an up-and-down start to his pro career in Las Vegas. He was 2 for 15 from the field in an opening loss, responded with a triple-double in another loss, then sat out the third game with a sore groin as critics said he was avoiding having to face No. 5 pick De’Aaron Fox in that game against Sacramento.
Ball looked fine Wednesday while playing against a Philadelphia team playing without Markelle Fultz, the player drafted before Ball who is sitting out with an ankle injury.
The point guard from UCLA scored 28 points in the second half, but the Lakers couldn’t get him the ball on an inbounds pass trailing by one. Instead, Ivaca Zubac got free and was fouled with 4.6 seconds left, making both free throws to give the No. 15 seeds the lead for good.
Furkan Korkmaz scored 19 for the No. 18 76ers (1-3).
The tournament began Wednesday with eight games, featuring the Nos. 9-24 seeds. The top eight seeds earned byes into the second round Thursday.
In other action:
NUGGETS 87, ROCKETS 81
Torrey Craig had 27 points and 11 rebounds off the bench to lead Denver to its first victory and a spot in the second round.
The Nuggets, who had dropped their first three games and are seeded 23rd, will meet the No. 7 Brooklyn Nets.
Troy Williams and Chris Johnson each scored 20 points for the No. 10 Rockets (2-2).
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