Without Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, the Los Angeles Lakers were hardly favorites to beat the postseason contending San Antonio Spurs, but strong nights from Kyle Kuzma and Channing Frye were enough to lead a ragtag group to a 122-112 victory at home.
Fighting through fatigue on the second night of a back-to-back, the Lakers got contributions from up and down their roster to stay with the Spurs in the first half. Ivica Zubac came off the bench for a monster, momentum-shifting poster dunk on Davis Bertans as part of his six quick points off the pine.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had a four-point play, and the undermanned and banged up Lakers were able to unexpectedly hang tough with the playoff-bound Spurs. Caldwell Pope’s performance especially was a slump-busting one.
He had bizarrely missed his last 15 3-point attempts at home before finishing one despite some contact, and finished the game with 19 points while shooting while making both of his shots from behind the arc.
But perhaps the biggest x-factor for the Lakers was Frye, who dusted the cobwebs that had accumulated on his uniform while playing just 72 total minutes for L.A. coming into the evening to key the team in the first half and finish with 19 points on 8-for-9 shooting off of the bench.
The third quarter saw more back-and-forth basketball for the majority of the period, at least until the Spurs went on an 8-2 run to end the period ahead 87-81. However, the Lakers battled back with a 9-2 run of their own to start the fourth and retake the lead.
Both teams continue to trade punches down the stretch, each jumper or run answered with another from the other side. The Lakers looked to have taken control of the game when Tyler Ennis, of all people, hit a driving layup to give L.A. a 108-106 lead with less than a minute to play, but Dejounte Murray answered back with a contested finish of his own to tie things up.
When Josh Hart couldn’t convert amid contact in the lane on the other end, the two sides were headed to overtime. Kuzma was happy to take over from there. The rookie forward was solid all game for Los Angeles to finish with a team-high 30 points, and he hit a running hook early in extra time to give Los Angeles momentum.
Hart (who finished with eight points and 10 rebounds) followed that up with some free throws on the break to extend L.A.’s lead. When Hart took a charge to get a stop and Caldwell-Pope hit another three to extend the Lakers lead to seven with just over a minute remaining, L.A. looked fairly set.
When Kuzma iced the game with a free throw to go up 118-110 with 41.8 remaining after being fouled on another hook attempt, the rest of the game was academic, and Los Angeles had snapped a three-game losing streak and potentially hurt the Spurs’ playoff hopes.