LAS VEGAS -- The Golden State Warriors are not a team that can be beaten in the Las Vegas Summer League, and they continued that distinction Monday night when they took down the undefeated Phoenix Suns 91-77 behind Ian Clark's 33 points on 12 of 19 from the field and 7 of 10 from 3-point range. The 33-point effort by Clark was the tournament high for points this year and it earned him a new award, the Las Vegas Summer League Championship MVP award.
Dating to the 2010 Las Vegas Summer League, the Warriors haven't lost a game in their last 15 tries, making them the modern-day Bill Russell Boston Celtics of summer league basketball. This team came from behind in multiple fourth quarters throughout the summer session to keep their undefeated streak going as they went 7-0 during this Las Vegas Summer League.
The game itself was incredibly competitive and not just something both sides seemed to gloss over as other teams and fans have regarding the Las Vegas Summer League this year and in the past. And that's where the new implementation of the tournament idea and crowning a summer league champion ended up working beautifully. This year's summer league had a lack of fantastical plays and moments, possibly due to it being such a low-key and down rookie class coming into the league.
However, that's where the tournament added excitement to the events on the court, kept a few teams from checking out with their best players early, and gave us games at the end of the 11 days that didn't lose meaning. Is winning a summer league championship as a team something important in the grand scheme of things, both short-term and long-term? Not at all. However, the community in Las Vegas seemed to embrace it (over 7,000 attended a summer league game) and the players who played in the game took it seriously and gave everybody a show over the last couple days.
The beauty of summer league is that even though the basketball is rarely the level of talent, schemes, and execution you see in your typical NBA game, you end up finding players you've forgotten or never known and get to watch them fight for a potential professional career that they've worked almost their entire lives to accomplish. Even if the aesthetic of the play isn't pleasing, watching a desperation to secure your dreams is worth the attention of the viewer, especially when you also factor in the growth of developing NBA players.
Kent Bazemore, who was named to the All Summer League team, added 18 points for the Warriors, but it was Ian Clark that stole the show. Clark has impressed fans, media members, coaches, and executives during his time in Orlando and Las Vegas as he's played very well for both the Miami Heat and Golden State Warriors' summer teams. In the final game before he starts checking on possible contract offers or training camp invites, Clark delivered a pretty fun performance.
The Summer Warriors seemed to legitimately enjoy winning that game and celebrating the victory and accomplishment for the summer, even if the moment was fleeting for them in the bright, neon lights of Las Vegas. The players joked around during the ceremony, congratulated Clark on his incredible performance and donned "Victory in Vegas" shirts after their championship win.
Bazemore had fun with the trophy, doing the famous Michael Jordan trophy pose after winning his first NBA championship with the Chicago Bulls in 1991. Bazemore clutched the trophy and pretended to cry on the court as he walked off and then took a picture of him doing it in the locker room and posted it on his Instagram account.
Overall, it was a long but fun 11 days in the desert as we all watched younger players and older veterans trying to build enough mental credit with NBA coaches and executives all around the league, including foreign scouts, to help bring the dream of playing basketball as a profession into fruition.