Kuzma, KCP Lead Lakers to Season's Biggest Comeback
For as badly as the Lakers played in Tuesday’s first half against Chicago, they were all the better in the final two quarters.
The purple and gold erased a 19-point deficit and surged to the finish line, cementing their biggest comeback of the season in a 103-94 victory.
Head coach Luke Walton called his team “pretty bad in that first half,” but liked the way it moved the ball around and competed defensively in the end.
The Lakers (8-10) went from 42 points and 13 turnovers in the first half to 62 points and one turnover in the second.
“It’s a learning opportunity for the guys to be down (19) and realize you don’t need hero shots,” Walton said. “You just need to tighten down on what we are doing, and you can get back in the game.”
Meanwhile, the one constant was defense. L.A. held the Bulls (3-12) to 38.3 percent shooting on the night.
Yet, as with most other areas, the Lakers were more successful in the second half, limiting their visitors to a 28.9 percent clip from the field.
“We turned up our defensive pressure,” said Julius Randle, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds. “They took a lot of pressured shots, and that gives us momentum getting those stops.
“On the other hand, it gives us an extreme amount of confidence on the other end to go out and play freely.”
Most of the Lakers found that offensive freedom in the second half, but Kyle Kuzma had it from the very first possession, throwing down a dunk to open the game.
He hit each of his first four shots and kept the Lakers afloat with a game-high 22 points, including four 3-pointers.
While Kuzma kept the Lakers within striking range, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope provided the clutch plays at the end.
Down six with six minutes remaining, the Lakers erupted for 11 unanswered points led by KCP.
He had a put-back with three minutes left to give L.A. the lead for good. Immediately after, he pump-faked his defender and splashed a 3-pointer. Then he received an outlet pass from Lonzo Ball and sunk another trey to seal the victory.
Caldwell-Pope ended the night with a season-high 21 points, nine rebounds, four assists, three steals and four 3-pointers.
But the first-year Laker deferred credit to Randle and the rest of the second unit for pulling the game within reach.
“(The second unit was) tired, a little fatigued, and we were fresh coming off the bench,” Caldwell-Pope said. “So we just wanted to keep the same pace they had out there.”
Brandon Ingram scored six of his 17 points in the final five minutes. … Chicago was led by Denzel Valentine (17 points) and Lauri Markkanen (13 points, 14 rebounds). … A crowd of 18,997 sold out STAPLES Center.