A filled-up lower bowl for this Summer League Battle for California. It could get loud in here (not a joke, actually).— Golden State of Mind (@unstoppablebaby) July 21, 2013
Although the first three quarterfinal games on Saturday suggested that the new Las Vegas Summer League tournament format was failing, the final game of the night was far closer to what organizers might have hoped for.
Once again, a combination of diehard Golden State Warriors fans and Kent Bazemore's growing personal fan base filled the arena to not only make Vegas a home away from home but also create about as much of a playoff atmosphere as one could hope for in a first attempt at a summer league tournament.
Buoyed by a crowd doing their part to offer support with the occasional "Let's Go Warriors!" chant - and even a "Let's Go Bazemore" chant late in the game - the Warriors managed to overcome another uneven shooting night to pull out a come from behind 83-77 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
With summer league returners Kent Bazemore and Draymond Green struggling to hit a shot - or, at times, control the ball - the Warriors needed someone else to generate offense and Cameron Jones took center stage throughout the game with his consistency, poise, and a smooth jumper that Santa Cruz Warriors fans are plenty familiar with. But although Bazemore ignited the crowd with big plays on his way to a game-high 26 points and Jones added 18, rookie guard Ian Clark might have been just as significant an individual story in this game, if only because he's more of an unknown quantity than the other key players who the organization is more familiar with.
Starting the game on the bench behind Scott Machado, Clark played nearly 17 minutes of the 20 minute second half and had a bigger impact than the box score might suggest. Coming out of college with a reputation as a shooter, Clark has been tasked with handling the ball more often for the Warriors in summer league and shared point guard duties with Bazemore for the vast majority of the second half to help the Warriors turn things around.
"We stopped turning the ball over, first of all," said Clark, alluding to the team's 12 first half turnovers that led to 14 Lakers points. "And we got stops and we made plays when we needed to. First half, we were loose with the ball a little bit, trying to make the homerun pass instead of making the simple play."
Clark showed off what he was known for in college with a pull-up 3-pointer in transition to give the Warriors an eight point lead, their largest of the game, with 5:39 left. But prior to that, it was Clark who set up 2012 training camp invitee Lance Goulbourne for a layup to give the team their first lead of the game to get the fourth quarter started and Clark playing the role of facilitator again minutes later to set up Jones for a three that gave the team a five point lead with 7:07 left.
As a 6-foot-3 shooter, Clark knew coming into this situation that his ability to bring something other than his shooting to the table would be important and helping the team dig themselves out of a rut can only help his cause.
"I did a lot more this past year, my senior year, more than I did all over the course of my career," said Clark, who finished with 8 points, 2 assists, and 3 rebounds. "And that's one thing that I wanted to come in here and work on knowing that I would be a little undersized at this level as a 2-guard. So I had to make sure I come in (and) bring something else to the table: I want to be able to handle the ball, become a combo guard, get the team into the offense and make plays."
Machado only played 46 seconds in the second half, after making some nice plays driving to the basket to get to the free throw line and set up others in the first half. Others nearby took note of my excitement over that.
Wow! @NateP_SBN almost had a heart attack here on press row after that Machado dish.— Golden State of Mind (@unstoppablebaby) July 21, 2013
But Clark's ability to run the team down the stretch without committing a turnover stood out as something that we might be able to take away from this game as a positive development.
The Warriors will resume play today at 5 p.m. when they face the 5th-seeded Charlotte Bobcats who knocked off the previously undefeated D-League Select Team 85-75 in the third game yesterday. Charlotte was without most of their major stars yesterday, but got a game-high 17 points from Washington Huskies product Abdul Gaddy.
For more on the Warriors undefeated time in Vegas, check out our Warriors summer league section.