Day 4 of the 2018 NBA Las Vegas Summer League was a thing of beauty, as a couple of prominent Australians put forth their strongest performances yet.
1. Jonah Bolden's consistent efforts on offensive positioning
Game 3 for the Philadelphia 76ers started off in familiar fashion for Jonah Bolden. He found himself getting into prime position on offence, despite lacking the finishing touch. Bolden missed all three of his field goal attempts in the first half, but was able to get to the free throw line on two occasions.
He also picked up four personal fouls, and the frustration looked like it was starting to build. Bolden picked up his first technical of the tournament in the first quarter, the whistle being a response to him throwing the ball in the air. Bolden presumably, did not agree with the foul that was called on him during a shot blocking attempt.
Despite his struggles on putting the ball in the basket, the ease in which he's been able to work himself into the offence remained encouraging. The law of averages eventually swung back on his side, with opportunities turning into points on the second half for Bolden. A cut to the lane produced an open dunk for his first made field goal of the day, before the fourth quarter added five more points to his total.
A nice pick-and-roll saw Bolden catch a Demetrius Jackson lob for the layup, followed by his first 3-point basket of the Summer League campaign.
His first double-digit scoring game of the tournament was combined with nine rebounds in a near double-double outing. As Summer League moves into the knockout stage, you feel this will be the launchpad Bolden has been chasing over the first week in Vegas.
2. Mitch Creek starts, and makes the most of it
Mitch Creek previously spoke with The Pick and Roll about the relaxed attitude he has brought this time around at Summer League, and it's been paying off with his performance on the floor.
After a solid performances in his first two games, Creek was rewarded with the start, and wasted no time in contributing to the box score. In his first four-minute stint on court, Creek set the tone for his best effort to date, reeling in five rebounds while scoring four points. There's no doubt, that it's adding to the positive impression he's left on Dallas and the other 29 NBA teams in attendance.
Creek finished with Summer League highs in minutes (18), points (13), and rebounds (7) as the Dallas Mavericks blew out the Golden State Warriors, 91-71.
3. Mangok Mathiang's (rostered) day off
Mangok Mathiang averaged 10.5 minutes per game across the Charlotte Hornets' first two Summer League games. As I watched today's game against the Boston Celtics play out, it became increasingly obvious that Mathiang's number would not be called.
He picked up a DNP for the game, and shared his thoughts with The Pick and Roll post-game.
"Our coaching staff is good with communication," Mathiang said. "After the game yesterday, they let me know that they wanted me to sit out and give some other people their chance, and I was fine with that. The thing with Summer League, is that everybody is out here trying to feed their family."
It was a selfless and remarkably honest comment from a player, who isn't afford the luxury of a guaranteed NBA contract this coming season. Mathiang is in Vegas battling for his right to survive and join the 2018/19 NBA season as a Hornet, but remains acutely aware that his Hornets teammates are in the exact same position.
4. The Thon Maker sighting
The Milwaukee Bucks and Denver Nuggets squared off in the second-to-last matchup of the day at Cox Pavilion. On the court, the contest was tight. Off the court, it turned into a star-studded NBA affair.
The bulk of the Milwaukee squad landed in Vegas, presumably to participate in offseason workouts as a group. Former Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon was the first to arrive, closely followed by Eric Bledsoe, John Henson and Tyler Zeller. At one point, the Bucks players, team owners Wes Edens and Marc Lasry, GM Jon Horst and their newly signed head coach Mike Budenholzer, took up almost one half of the sideline opposite the Milwaukee bench.
The spectacle would obviously not be complete without Aussie big man Thon Maker. He strolled into Cox Pavilion and settled in on the opposite side of the floor, his trademark smile evident as he posed for photos and signed some autographs - though he did decline chats with media.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and his brothers rolled in, before quickly moving off with some Bucks staffers. Nikola Jokic was in the house watching his Nuggets, as was the Boston Celtics' restricted free agent Marcus Smart, who curiously arrived after the Celtics game concluded. Smart did run into Celtics head coach Brad Stevens and GM Danny Ainge, though what you would have thought was a potentially awkward run-in, seemed as amicable as you could expect.
Just as I was about to head out, I managed to catch up with former Brisbane and Cairns NBL player Travis Trice - who's playing with the Milwaukee Bucks in Vegas - and it so happened that Rockets superstar Chris Paul strolled by.
It's no secret that a plethora of NBA players have been enjoying their offseason in Vegas the last few days. These few hours in the Cox Pavilion however, culminated in a sea of familiar NBA athletes, on a level that far exceeded the sightings of this past week. It has been fun to see the guys relaxing and enjoying their break, while also getting out and supporting their teammates.
The final day of 'warm-up' games takes place on Day 5 of the 2018 NBA Summer League tomorrow, and only one Australian is on the schedule. After tomorrow, all teams enter a knockout style tournament to determine the Summer League champion.
Jock Landale and the Atlanta Hawks will play their third game in Vegas, as they take on the Chicago Bulls - 8:00am (AEST)