The much anticipated showdown between the top two picks from last month's NBA Draft took place Friday on the opening day of the NBA Summer League. But not without a bit of hand-wringing.
Karl-Anthony Towns, the No. 1 overall pick, was no problem as the former Kentucky star had signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves. But D'Angelo Russell, the No. 2 overall selection, didn't sign his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers until Friday afternoon, just hours before the teams tipped off at the Thomas & Mack Center.
But the top picks were overshadowed by an emerging star ? Minnesota's Zach LaVine. The NBA Slam Dunk champion did have an alley-oop dunk in the second quarter but showed a lot of versatility in his offense, finishing with 24 points as the Timberwolves defeated the Lakers 81-68.
More than 12,000 fans filled the Thomas & Mack and officials had to open parts of the balcony to accommodate the large crowd that wanted a first look at the two top picks.
Russell seemed more at ease than Towns as he was filling the facilitator role Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak perceives him having. He had four first-half assists and probably should have had a couple more had his teammates' shots fallen. Russell played 26 minutes and finished with six assists along with eight points.
Towns, the 6-foot-11 center from Kentucky who was the top pick overall, had just six points and only one rebound in the first half. But he too picked up the pace in the second half, looking a little more comfortable and finishing with 12 points and three boards along with four assists in 31 minutes.
Another Kentucky alumnus ? Julius Randle ? played in his first organized basketball game since breaking his right leg on opening night last October. Randle appeared aggressive as he attacked the basket and was willing to mix it up underneath and not shy away from contact. He finished with 11 points in 21 minutes Friday.
The Lakers led 27-23 early in the second quarter but Minnesota rallied behind LaVine and led 41-35 at halftime. With the teams tied at 56 with just over seven minutes remaining, the Lakers edged ahead, 59-56. But the Timberwolves answered with a 15-3 run to lead 71-62 with 2:33 to play.