LAS VEGAS — An earthquake that struck Southern California on Friday night forced the NBA to cancel the finish of a two Summer League games, including a marquee sold-out matchup between New Orleans and New York, while engineers checked to see if the integrity of the Thomas & Mack Center on UNLV’s campus was compromised in any way by the tremors.
The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres played through the earthquake during their game at Dodger Stadium , though a WNBA game in Las Vegas was also stopped.
The primary issue at Summer League was the arena’s overhead scoreboard, which is suspended from the roof by cables and swayed noticeably when the quake hit. A game between Phoenix and Denver, scheduled for later Friday in the Thomas & Mack, never started and was ultimately canceled — and a San Antonio-Orlando game in the adjacent Cox Pavilion, which does not have an overhead scoreboard, was also halted for precautionary reasons. The Magic were leading 75-59 and were declared winners.
“Safety comes first, second, third,” Summer League executive director Warren LeGarie said.
The Knicks-Pelicans game, the NBA debuts for No. 1 pick Zion Williamson of New Orleans and No. 3 pick RJ Barrett of New York, was called with 7:53 left and New Orleans leading 80-74. The NBA later decided that the game would end there, with the Pelicans prevailing.
NBA officials said late Friday they were going forward with the idea that Saturday’s games in Las Vegas would be played as scheduled. There was a crack found on the court in the Cox arena, though it was barely noticeable and needed only minor repair.
“I was bringing the ball up, it felt like someone was pushing my hip, like I kind of leaned this way, and I was like ‘Oh my gosh, what is going on?’” New Orleans guard Frank Jackson said. “And then I just saw everything shaking.”
The quake registered an initial magnitude of 6.9 to 7.1, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was centered in the Mojave Desert town of Ridgecrest, some 150 miles from Los Angeles — but the effects were felt in Las Vegas and Mexico.
Friday’s quake would be the largest temblor in the region in 20 years and was centered in the same area as a 6.4 quake that hit a day earlier.
“I never remember them coming like this two days in a row,” said New York Knicks coach and California native David Fizdale, who is no stranger to quakes.
The WNBA game between the Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics was suspended as well, with the Mystics leading 51-36 at halftime. Those teams will decide later how or if to proceed.
“Due to the unforeseen earthquake, safety of the players, coaches and fans the WNBA has recommended postponing the completion” of the game,” the Aces said in a statement.
New Orleans summer leaguer Christian Wood played college ball at UNLV, and said the quake was an in-game first for him. Play actually continued for a few seconds after the quake, and television cameras captured Pelicans general manager David Griffin looking at the scoreboard and reacting during the few seconds that tremors could be felt in Las Vegas.
“Guys didn’t know what was going on,” Wood said. “Some guys were still playing on the court.”
Knicks summer coach Jud Buechler said he wasn’t aware of what was happening until he saw some fans leaving the lower bowl at Thomas & Mack and heading to the concourse, then observed the scoreboard swaying. Barrett was among the players in Las Vegas who also didn’t know what was taking place.
“I didn’t even feel the earthquake,” Barrett said. “I didn’t even know it happened.”
In Los Angeles, the quake was felt when Dodgers second baseman Enriquè Hernàndez was batting. It didn’t appear to affect him or Padres pitcher Eric Lauer. However, it was obvious to viewers of the SportsNet LA broadcast when the TV picture bounced up and down.
Some fans in the upper deck appeared to leave their seats and move to a concourse at the top of the stadium, and the Dodger Stadium press box lurched for about 20 seconds. Unlike in Las Vegas, play continued in Los Angeles.
“I’ve been a part of earthquakes, but nothing while playing basketball,” Wood said. “It was cool, but I don’t want to be a part of it anymore.”