The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Mayer and Podziemski face-off in final game before NBA 2K24 Summer League playoffs

Conor Blount
Former Illini Matthew Mayer checking in for his NBA 2K24 Summer League debut against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Since then, Mayer and the Houston Rockets have won two games to clinch a spot in the Summer League semifinals.

The two former Illini who faced off in Las Vegas this evening have had opposite tales thus far. Brandin Podziemski, No. 19 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, has had a solidified spot in Golden State’s rotation from the jump and struggled immensely in all three games. Meanwhile, the undrafted Matthew Mayer did not see the floor until Houston’s third outing, where he stunned Oklahoma City with an efficient 19-point double-double. 

Despite the versatile performance from Mayer, which at times featured him as Houston’s tallest player on the court, he found himself on the bench to start the night. Podziemski meanwhile, earned his fourth start of the Summer League.

The first play from either former Illini was a fortunate change of tone for Podziemski, as he sunk a pullup shot from 27-feet out. A couple of possessions later, he found familiar Illinois opponent Trayce Jackson-Davis for a dunk and immediately picked up another assist on Golden State’s next offensive set. 

Mayer got to witness his next assist up close, checking in just before the halfway point of the quarter with a 20-11 lead. After establishing himself as a shooter that is capable of explosive scoring sequences in the previous game, Mayer picked up right where he left off with a rebound and running jump shot from deep.

Save for a Podziemski steal in the final few minutes, both guards cooled off to close the first quarter, with Houston ultimately holding a 30-29 lead.

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The second quarter began with both on the bench, a fact that did not change until the 5:58 mark when both subbed in for their respective squads. By that point, the Rockets had broken down the door and led by 13 points.

It was the Dallas native who struck first, securing his first steal of the game and creating an offensive possession that developed his squad’s lead even further. A pump fake from Mayer a few possessions later got his defender in the air, an action which he punished by going at the rack and finishing over the top. Continuing to pour salt in the Warriors’ wound, he sank two more shots from outside the arc for a total of 11 points on 4/5 shooting.

During their time on the court to close the first half, Podziemski did not attempt a single shot but still managed to get the best of Mayer on one occasion. Beginning on the right wing, Podziemski took him off the dribble and attacked the basket before perfectly placing a pass over Mayer’s head to Jackson-Davis for the slam.

Second half action began with Mayer on the bench and a left corner three for Podziemski, good for his second make on just four attempts. Shortly after, he and Jackson-Davis connected once again for another dunk.

Mayer returned while Golden State was in the middle of doing serious damage to Houston’s once 18-point lead, but quickly put his squad back up by 11 with a thunderous dunk over the top of a help-side Podziemski. 

With a third quarter Warriors run successfully quenched, the Rockets returned fire and blew the game open to start the fourth quarter. Less than three minutes in, they simultaneously cracked triple digits for the fourth straight game and secured a 22-point lead (100-78).

As expected, this was too much for the Warriors to overcome. The Rockets moved to 4-0 while the Warriors dropped to 0-4, concluding each team’s “regular season” and setting up the Summer League playoffs. 

Earning terrific shooting splits for the second game in a row, Mayer ended the night dropping 50% of his total attempts, 43% from behind the arc and 100% from the free throw line. This added up to 15 points, seven rebounds and two steals. 

Meanwhile, Podziemski appears to have turned the corner after making just seven of his first 37 shots. In this outing, his efficiency was comparable to Mayer’s, with 50% of all shots dropping, including a 40% mark from three-point land. Applied over eight shots, Podziemski totaled 10 points to go along with three rebounds and six assists. 


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About the Contributor
Conor Blount
Conor Blount, Senior Sports Reporter
My name is Conor Blount. I’m a junior in aerospace engineering with a minor in computer science. I joined The Daily Illini in the summer of 2022 as a beat writer for the sports section and am now one of three assistant sports editors. My first beat was women’s tennis before I moved to women’s basketball in the spring. I also had the pleasure of covering several former Illini at the 2023 NFL draft and NBA summer league. If you have any questions, I can be reached at the email below.
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