Los Angeles Lakers: Thurmon Sutton

Drew League finale provides high-flying ending

August, 14, 2011
Moura By Pedro Moura
LOS ANGELES -- When they talk about fitting endings, this is what they mean.

Only a championship game like Saturday’s could have capped off a revolutionary summer at the Drew League in South L.A., complete with appearances by some of the biggest and brightest stars in the NBA, breakout performances by low-key locals and up-comers and all kinds of crazy finishes, week in and week out.

Saturday’s 3 p.m. final at Colonel Leon H. Washington Park took it to a new, slightly unbelievable level. With the league charging an entry fee for the first time in its 38-year existence and limiting the number of fans allowed on the premises, there was a line forming outside the gymnasium two hours before tip-off. By the time they opened the doors, a half-hour before the start, roughly 400 people had snaked around the 800-capacity gym in anticipation of the final between defending champions L.A. Unified and Hank’s Blazers.

Then Unified, led by former NBA point guards Bobby Brown and Marcus Williams and Nuggets first-round pick Jordan Hamilton, took a double-digit lead a few minutes into the first quarter, stretched it out to a 23-point lead by the third and the buzz in the super-compact gym seemed to disappear.

Blazers forward Kenneth Faried, also a 2011 first-round selection of the Nuggets, changed that quickly, helping to start a run for his squad with an and-one off an offensive rebound that lowered Unified’s lead to 20 points with two minutes to go in the third. And, after Detroit Pistons forward Austin Daye, also a Blazer, poured in a 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter to make it a 89-78 game, Faried followed it up with another tip-in.

Then, during a timeout, Brown sprinted out the gym and into a car and headed 10 miles due west on Manchester Boulevard to Los Angeles International Airport, where he had a flight to catch to Germany, where he will play this season, taking off in less than 90 minutes. That gave the Blazers a big boost, and they rallied to get the game as close as 89-85 with a little more than two minutes left.

But Daye had a one-on-one opportunity to score from the top of the key with Hamilton guarding him but couldn’t convert, and Faried got called for a crucial offensive foul while attempting to grab the offensive rebound. By the time Daye did hit a big shot, it made it just 95-90 and there were only 31 seconds left. Unified held on for the dramatic 99-90 victory.

“I thought we were gonna come back and win the game, actually,” Daye said afterward. “But they got a good offensive rebound and we took a bad shot, and that was it right there.”

“But, hey, at least we put in a good effort and made it interesting.”

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Kobe Bryant
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.1
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsR. Price 1.5
BlocksE. Davis 1.1