Kyle Kuzma dribbles against the San Antonio Spurs on April 4, 2018.
(Ty Nowell/Lakers.com)

Kuzma Lifts Lakers to Season Sweep of Spurs

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

For the first time in 20 years, the Lakers have swept the San Antonio Spurs.

Last time it happened, Kobe Bryant was a sophomore and Tim Duncan was a rookie. Kyle Kuzma was 2 years old.

All grown up, Kuzma scorched the Spurs, dropping 30 points and five 3-pointers to lead the Lakers to a 122-112 overtime victory.

“It’s fun watching him compete at that level, when he gets in that area and that zone,” coach Luke Walton said.

When he wasn’t torching San Antonio from beyond the arc, Kuzma was taking his defenders off the dribble and finishing in fancy fashion, including a pair of trademark hook shots.

“I thought Kyle Kuzma got away from us,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He did a great job.”

Kuzma — who arrived to the game wearing a vintage Nick Van Exel Lakers jersey — started off hot with 12 points in the first quarter alone.

Thus begun a back-and-forth contest that featured 21 ties and 17 lead changes.

San Antonio (45-34) took a six-point lead into the fourth quarter, but the Lakers’ defense clamped down from there. The Spurs shot just 8-of-25 from the field in the fourth and overtime.

And while Josh Hart missed a layup attempt that would have won the game at the end of regulation, he was essential defensively in the extra period, while Kuzma took care of the other end.

Kuzma began overtime by draining a pick-and-pop 3-pointer before driving out of a pick-and-roll and finishing with a sweeping hook. Hart added a free throw to give the Lakers (34-44) the first six points of OT.

“Just to kill,” Kuzma said of his overtime mentality. “I didn’t want to lose that game. We have been losing for the past couple of games, so I just tried to kill.”

Meanwhile, Hart led the defensive side, ending two San Antonio possessions with a steal and a taken charge. The Spurs managed just four points in overtime — 10 fewer than the Lakers and two fewer than Kuzma alone.

L.A. even kept LaMarcus Aldridge without a shot attempt in overtime, constantly double-teaming the big man who entered the night leading the NBA in scoring over his last nine games. Aldridge lived up to the hype with 28 points, but could not get a look in OT.

The same could not be said for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who hit a big triple in the extra period. He finished with 21 points by hitting two shots from all three scoring levels, including a four-point play.

And Channing Frye provided an unexpected spark from the pine for a Lakers squad missing three key players due to injury (Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Isaiah Thomas).

Frye scored 19 points, hitting eight shots and missing just one (ironically an open dunk). The 34-year-old showed some savviness by posting up smaller players and stretching the floor with three 3-pointers.

The Lakers’ offense hummed as a whole, shooting 54.7 percent from the field, including 13-of-24 on 3-pointers.

While the Spurs were able to hang around due to a huge advantage in offensive rebounds (15-4), L.A. ultimately sped away in a battle that pitted the NBA’s fastest-paced team against the second-slowest.

“We play at a high pace and they are not really used to it,” Kuzma said. “They’re older. We’re young, we get up and down, we can switch (defensively).”

Notes
The Lakers significantly outscored San Antonio in the paint (58-44) and on fast-breaks (21-9). … Dejounte Murray had 23 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for the Spurs. … An audience of 18,997 — including Todd Gurley and Tommy Lasorda — sold out Staples Center.

Kuz the Kuick

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