Los Angeles Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma has put up some impressive statistics during his first NBA season. The versatile, 6’9 forward has not only set a franchise record for made threes by a rookie, but he’s also led the Lakers in scoring and minutes, both of which have allowed him to achieve his latest feat.
In L.A.’s win over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night, Kuzma became the first Lakers rookie since Magic Johnson to score more than 10 points in a game in 20 straight games. Kuzma’s 30 points also made him the first rookie to score at least 30 points four times in a season since Johnson was suiting up (and not running the front office) in Los Angeles.
Kuzma only has four more games to break both of those records, and the former looks more likely than the latter. L.A. might not be able to beat a Minnesota Timberwolves team that is fighting for life in the Western Conference playoff race, even on the Wolves’ second night of a back-to-back.
But with Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram still injured and missing action, Kuzma should easily get enough touches to get into double-digits in scoring again.
Getting to 30 might be difficult, although not as difficult as some might think. Yes, Minnesota is battling for a playoff spot, but this isn’t a normal Tom Thibodeau team. This version of the Wolves is actually winning behind the league’s fourth-most efficient offense and has actually struggled on defense, where they rank 25th in defensive rating.
Their defense hasn’t been any prettier in the absence of Jimmy Butler after his surgery. Their star offseason acquisition could return against the Lakers after being cleared to play but sitting out against the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night.
If Butler is back, then it allows the Wolves’ defense to be a little less scrambled and stay home a bit more on Kuzma, who is already having to deal with extra pressure and attention in Ball and Ingram’s absences.
Kuzma has thrived on pressure this season, but even on the second night of a back-to-back on the road, the Timberwolves have to be slightly favored heading into this one. However, the odds were stacked against the Lakers on Thursday too, but the team still managed to find a way to grind out a win.
There is a chance they can do it again, but it seems more likely Kuzma snapping another one of Johnson’s rookie records might have to wait.
Los Angeles Lakers (34-44) Vs Minnesota Timberwolves (44-35):
7:30 P.M. PST, April 6, 2018
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Alex Caruso
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Kyle Kuzma
PF: Julius Randle
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Josh Hart, Tyler Ennis, Ivica Zubac, Channing Frye
Projected Timberwolves Starting Lineup:
PG: Tyus Jones
SG: Andrew Wiggins
SF: Nemanja Bjelica/Jimmy Butler (If healthy)
PF: Taj Gibson
C: Karl-Anthony Towns
Key Reserves: Manu Ginobili, Aaron Brooks, Gorgui Dieng, Jamal Crawford, Anthony Brown
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