Kyle Kuzma and the Lakers got off to a strong start to the second half of the season, defeating the Indiana Pacers 105-100. The win was nice but the story has to be Kuzma’s play.
Los Angeles trailed by 12 points early in the fourth quarter before Kuzma led a strong rally to keep the Pacers winless against the Lakers at Staples Center since November 2015. Kuzma went 5 for 8 with two 3-pointers and four rebounds in the fourth.
Kuzma scored 15 of his team high 24 points in the fourth quarter, adding 13 rebounds as well.
It was an unusual night for the Lakers as LeBron James didn’t lead the team in scoring, efficiency, nor minutes played. Yet the Lakers won. And LeBron praised Kuzma post game.
”It’s all about growth, and the game has just slowed down every year for him,” James said. ”He knows his role with this team and he does it to a high level, and tonight was another example of that.”
That role is not always as black and white as one would like it to be. But Kuzma has some how found his rhythm and is now excelling.
Some nights he has to be just a 3 and D player. Some nights he has to rebound like prime Rodman. But it is nights where either James or Davis is out, that Kuzma really gets to shine both in his role and the stat sheet.
The 25 year old had the hot hand down the stretch and wanted the ball in clutch time. LeBron noticed that and dished it to him in the corner for a huge 3 pointer to help the Lakers win. Kuzma had quite the way of describing that sequence post game.
I had to clip this Kyle Kuzma (@kylekuzma) quote because it is absolutely PRICELESS!! (Question by @mcten and funny reaction by @DanWoikeSports) – I couldn't keep it together. Too funny! pic.twitter.com/w0xoFHtDof
— Ryan Ward (@RyanWardLA) March 13, 2021
In the next game against the Golden State Warriors, Kuzma dropped 17 points on an efficiency 7/11 shooting, continuing to shine in AD’s absence. His +/- of +26 was second to just LeBron. It was much of the same for Kuzma in the Lakers blow out win over the Minnesota Timberwolves as he dropped another efficient 16 points while adding great perimeter defense.
Last nights game against the Charlotte Hornets was the first game in a month where Kuzma was not an efficient scorer, but it didn’t matter as LeBron dominated the game from the start and Schroder elevated his play.
Kuzma’s performances came at the perfect time for a Lakers team that has struggled a bit without Anthony Davis, and wanted to come out the gates strong for the second half. As the second half continues he could be the reason the Lakers stay a top 2 seed, or the reason they fall in the standings.