Kyle Kuzma returned to the lineup on Monday after missing 2.5 games due to a lower back contusion but somewhat expectedly didn’t have his usual sharpness. Kuzma also dealt with some discomfort in his balky back but said his overall condition was improving.
So Kuzma used an off day to work on his shooting form, which Lakers head coach Luke Walton revealed amounted to 500 shots. “I shot 4-for-20 (against the Dallas Mavericks). That’s a reason to go to the gym,” Kuzma said.
That didn’t lead to immediate success as the second-year forward was off the mark from deep. But he was scoring at the basket early and often, leading all players with 12 points in the first quarter.
Kuzma then erupted in the third and finished the night with a career-high 41 points in just three quarters. He joined Stephen Curry, James Harden, LeBron James and Klay Thompson as players who have scored at least 40 points in three quarters this season.
“My teammates allowed me to get a lot of shots, finding me. I think for the most part, everything was in the rhythm of the offense, which was a good thing for everybody.”
A renowned scorer early in his career, Kuzma offered a common refrain when asked about overcoming his shooting struggles. “A lot of scorers, they always say just seeing the ball go in a couple times – easy ones getting to the rim – is definitely going to open a lot of things,” he said.
Beyond surpassing the 38 points he scored last season against the Houston Rockets, the night was all the more memorable for Kuzma given the setting and opponent “If you would’ve told me two years ago when I was in college that I would score 40 for the Lakers, I probably wouldn’t believe you. Kind of crazy. It’s a blessing,” he said.
“It’s pretty cool, honestly,” added Kuzma about the big performance coming against the Detroit Pistons. “That’s the team I grew up watching. My fondest memories are of them beating the Lakers, oddly. It’s pretty awesome.”
Kuzma also dismissed the notion of any disappointment he didn’t play a single second in the fourth quarter. “Not at all. I was happy with Beas (playing). It’s his birthday, and he doesn’t get a lot of minutes. I was cheering him on,” he said.
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