Hello to South Bay Lakers: Rebranded hoops league tight with NBA

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Ever hear of the South Bay Lakers or Santa Cruz Warriors?

You’re probably a die-hard basketball fan if those names are familiar, and the two teams faced off Wednesday night with the South Bay Lakers beating the Santa Cruz Warriors 127-123.

The rebranding of the South Bay Lakers formerly known as the Los Angeles D-Fenders was announced in January and coincided with the team’s move from the Toyota Sports Center to the UCLA Health Training Center. Both sites are in El Segundo.

The league formerly known as the NBA Development League announced its rebranding in February in connection with an expanded partnership involving the NBA and Gatorade.

In Wednesday night’s game, center Thomas Bryant scored 30 points and guard Alex Caruso added 29 in the Lakers’ first regular-season game at the UCLA Health Training Center.

Caruso made a tie-breaking 3-point shot with two minutes, 31 seconds left that gave South Bay a 123-120 lead it did not relinquish Wednesday night.

A putback dunk by forward Cleanthony Early pulled Santa Cruz within two, 125-123, with 48.8 seconds left. Guard Quinn Cook missed two 3-point shots with less than 10 seconds to play that would have given the Warriors the lead.

Bryant sank two free throws with three-tenths of a second left to seal the victory.

Guard Scott Machado added 19 in 32:41 off the bench, forward V.J. Beachem 17 and forward Travis Wear 15 for South Bay (2-0), the Los Angeles Lakers NBA G League affiliate.

Reserve guard Stephaun Branch had the best plus-minus for the Lakers, plus-eight, in 12:07 of play where he scored two points, missing four of five shots. South Bay was outscored by 10 during the 29:47 Wear was in the game.

Cook led the Warriors (1-2) with 25, forward James Southerland 23 in 32:25 off the bench, Early and forward Georges Niang 20 each and guard Antonius Cleveland 16 in 25:40 off the bench.

Santa Cruz guard Avry Holmes was scoreless in 7:09 of play, but had a game-best plus-10. The Warriors were outscored by 15 in the 18:27 center Damian Jones was in the game.

South Bay trailed 102-92 entering the fourth quarter, then scored 10 consecutive points as part of a 16-2 run that gave it a 108-104 lead with seven minutes, 30 seconds to play.

Machado scored six points during the run, including a 3-point basket. Bryant and Andre Ingram also made 3-point baskets.

South Bay trailed 69-61 at halftime after leading 34-32 at the end of the first quarter before a crowd announced at 690.


South Bay will next play Saturday at the UCLA Health Training Center, facing the Austin Spurs, the San Antonio Spurs NBA G League affiliate.

The game has been designated as U.S. Air Force Night, with 75 suite tickets and four courtside seats donated to the U.S. Air Force. Twenty military personnel will stand with the Lakers on the court during the performance of the national anthem.

—Staff and wire reports

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