Kuzma Drops 30 But Lakers Can't Hold Back Suns
Kyle Kuzma entered halftime with two points. He ended the game with more than any other rookie this season.
But the Lakers — fourth-ranked defense and all — underestimated the Suns after defeating them twice in Phoenix, and fell 122-113.
“Just because we beat a team twice doesn’t mean that we’re better than they are,” head coach Luke Walton said. “Tonight Phoenix played harder, played tougher, especially in the first half.”
Another career night for Kyle Kuzma as he scored 30 points against Phoenix. pic.twitter.com/UEq05CFQ5X— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) November 18, 2017
Brandon Ingram led a tight opening quarter with 12 points, but foul trouble contributed to him adding only five more throughout the game.
Phoenix (6-11) took advantage of lax defense from its hosts late in the half, going on an extended 20-5 run from the end of the second quarter through the beginning of the third.
Flammable scorer Devin Booker sparked the onslaught with six first-half 3-pointers on his way to a 33-point night.
Behind Booker’s tough shot-making, the Suns grabbed a 16-point lead early in the third. That’s when Kuzma broke out.
After missing all six of his first-half shots from the field, the 22-year-old suddenly emptied out his offensive arsenal.
It all started with a fast-break dunk. Soon after, Kuzma added a hook shot, spinning layup, transition triple, put-back, and an and-1 layup, bringing his scoring total to 14 in the third quarter alone.
While Kuzma was red hot, the Lakers (6-10) still fell behind by double figures to begin the fourth period.
L.A. had one more push, scoring eight unanswered points — including six from Corey Brewer — to pull the score to 99-96 with 7:30 left.
But Booker hit three shots over the next two minutes to put the game on ice.
Nonetheless, Kuzma added 14 more points to his scoring total, as his 30 on 11-of-23 shooting were the most by any rookie this season.
“It’s cool, but I’m a winner,” Kuzma said. “I like to win. Stats, all that, really don’t matter to me.”
Kuzma added 10 rebounds, while Brook Lopez (19 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks) also managed a double-double.
With those two leading the way, the Lakers scored 66 points in the paint. But they were hindered by two of their most problematic areas this season: turnovers (19) and 3-pointers (7-of-25).
Still, those deficiencies could have been overcome if not for a sluggish first half, as the Suns sho 56.0 percent before intermission and just 38.5 after.
Likewise, Kuzma — who had set his previous career-high (24) just two days prior — needed his time to heat up to a scalding level.
“When we’re playing the right way and playing with energy and competing, he’s a matchup nightmare for teams,” Walton said. “But in the first half he took a bunch of shots that were off-balance, quick and not what we were looking for.”
Lakers keep it close behind Kuzma's 30 points but fall to the Suns, 122-113. pic.twitter.com/IUZCom12Dl— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) November 18, 2017
Lonzo Ball had six points (3-of-7), six rebounds, six assists and a season-high five steals. … Alex Len had 17 points and 18 rebounds for Phoenix. … A sold-out crowd fo 18,997 packed STAPLES Center.