This year’s NBA Summer League championship game will feature two undefeated teams after both endured grueling semifinal games Sunday night from the Thomas & Mack Center.
Cleveland and Houston had to overcome losing a double-digit lead, one of which had to do so on two occasions, en route to the title game. The No. 1 Cavs had to withstand a feverous comeback from the No. 4 Brooklyn Nets while the No. 2 Rockets encountered a pesky No. 3 Utah Jazz team.
With one more game to play, both Cleveland and Houston will compete for this year’s crown in addition to an official summer league championship ring courtesy of Jason of Beverly Hills.
Cleveland outlasts Brooklyn in overtime after losing several leads
Forward Isaiah Mobley scored the game-winner on a tough finish in the paint to help Cleveland close the door on a 102-99 win over Brooklyn Sunday night from the Thomas & Mack Center.
“It was great,” he said. “[The Nets] are a great team. The [Canton] Charge and [Long Island] Nets played in the semifinals this past G League playoff so it was a little bit good to get some get back with some of those guys on that team.”
The only reason the Cavaliers found themselves in overtime is because guard Armoni Brooks would not let the Nets go away quietly. On three separate occasions, he drilled three-point baskets to change the complexion of the game.
After Cleveland had taken a five-point lead late in the fourth quarter, Brooks nailed a trey that instantly injected life into the Brooklyn bench. Soon after, he’d send the game into overtime with the same off-the-dribble drifting three to his left. Lastly, he brought his team to within a point of victory with his fifth and final three of the night.
“Just stay together,” Mobley said of the team’s message late in the game. “Basketball is a game of runs. You’re going to have some good ones and some bad ones. Sticking to the gameplan and believing in each other, you guys will always be solid in the end.”
Prior to the pair of comeback efforts by the No. 4
Mobley responded to nearly every Brooklyn answer in the fourth quarter, at one point he drained a stepback three from the left wing and swiftly shot a quick look at main roster player Larry Nance. Moments later, he’d connect on an and-one basket plus the free throw to put Cleveland up two.
“A little bit of point forward,” Mobley said of his game. “But also like a Swiss army knife. However coaches want to use me, whether it’s for defense and rebounding or playmaking or scoring or a little bit of everything. I think I have that versatility to be able to do that.”
Mobley led all scorers with 23 points on 9-of-15 from the field while being followed in scoring by rookie Emoni Bates with 20 points and three-year pro Sam Merrill’s 19.
Bates scored the first five points of the game for the Cavs on his way to 13 first half points. Later in the game, he broke an 89-89 tie with a made three and proceeded to open the overtime session with a near tip-dunk.
“It’s something new to me,” Bates said of his first summer league experience. “Summer league is kind of the first action in the NBA. So for me it’s just about getting comfortable with the guys and just trying to build chemistry with each other.”
Merrill on the other hand, had a lot of his best work not show up on the stat sheet late in the game as he was responsible for calming down the young Cavs and setting the offense into motion.
“Sam’s great,” Mobley said. “He’s a vet, he’s helped me tremendously through my first year and going into my second. When he’s hitting like that, he’s unstoppable – he’s one of the best shooters I’ve played with and I tell him that. I tell him, ‘Anytime you shoot it, it’s good with me.”
When needed, Merrill came up big with his shooting, including knocking down back-to-back threes about midway through the fourth quarter to put Cleveland up nine.
Houston pulls away from Utah late to land in title game
Houston had to pull away late to secure a win after having an early lead chewed away by Utah. Ultimately, the Rockets beat the Jazz, 115-101, from the Thomas & Mack Center Sunday evening.
Coming into the game, Utah were without six players including one of this summer’s biggest storylines Keyonte George.
“We got some fight to us,” rookie Cam Whitmore said. “Today we didn’t really come together but in the four previous games, we were together, united and got the job done. Today it was a rough start for everybody but we got the job done at the end of the day.”
Houston guard Nate Hinton was on the wrong end of a flagrant-one foul i the first quarter after Utah center Ed Croswell landed on his groing on a dunk attempt that was whistled dead.
Hinton was responsible for doing majority of the heavy-llifting in the first half for the Rockets scoring 15 points before halftime. To compound things, he connected on a three early in the third quarter for a 15-point lead, the team’s largest of the night.
Late in the third quarter, the Jazz would go on a 13-6 run to close the frame, cutting a once 15-point lead to seven.
Hinton ended the night with a game-high 27 points on 9-of-16 shooting with four made threes. He also answered the bell on the defensive end, guarding Utah’s Taevion Kinsey and holding him to just six points after he erupted for eight in the first quarter.
“My mindset doesn’t change no matter who it is [that I’m guarding],” Hinton said. “I have to go out there and set the tone and be the defensive anchor and be the energy guy. As long as I do my job and everybody feeds off it then it doesn’t matter who it is. He’s a great player but I just have to do my job and prepare for myself.”
By the end of the night, Hinton has hustled up five steals to go along with five rebounds and three assists on his final stat line.
Whitmore overcame a slow start to the game on the way to 25 points on the night.
“It’s just from my background,” he said. “My parents, my teammates, my previous teammates – everybody just building me up, my loved ones reminding me of who I am and I just go out there and play hard.”
Whitmore was held without a point until the 4:39-mark of the second quarter. However from there, he’d score seven straight points for Houston, helping the team push its lead to nine.
“We really didn’t realize it because he was out there playing hard,” Hinton said. “Everybody was playing hard, everybody was giving it their all. He has that ability to turn it on and turn it off. The next step for him is to take it up another level.”