(Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)
Kuzma Drops Career-High 41 Points, Powers Lakers to Victory
Upset with himself after missing 16 of his 20 shots in Monday’s win over Dallas, Kyle Kuzma put up a lot more in preparation for Wednesday’s clash with Detroit.
“Even though yesterday was an off day, he was in the gym and got up 500 shots,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “He was working on his stroke and he was working on his form.”
Both his stroke and form were pristine, as he dropped a career-high 41 points — in only three quarters — to lead the Lakers past the Pistons, 113-100.
“It’s not like he just came out and had a hot night,” Walton said. “He put in that work.”
Kuzma was electrifying, shooting 16-of-24 from the field and 5-of-10 on 3-pointers. His entire repertoire was on display, as he scored off the dribble, on spot-ups, in transition, off screens and more.
Crafty start for Kyle Kuzma, who puts Blake Griffin into the popcorn machine twice in the game's first five minutes. pic.twitter.com/ghJNbxkPg4— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) January 10, 2019
“His confidence is never gonna waver no matter how he shoots,” said Lonzo Ball, who had 11 assists, including five to Kuzma. “We know he’s one of the best scorers on this team, and we look to him for points.”
Kuzma had plenty of those for the Lakers, particularly in a third quarter that saw him erupt for 22 of his points, including four 3-pointers.
For a player who entered the night shooting just 29.7 percent from downtown, Kuzma’s beyond-the-arc bombardment was a testament to his mental fortitude and dedication to his craft.
“I know I’m a great shooter,” Kuzma said. “My percentage may not reflect that, but I’m always confident shooting, and I’m always in the gym just trying to put work in every single day. It paid off today.”
third quarter from Kyle Kuzma, including 22 points and four triples.— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) January 10, 2019
Lakers got him going early with a double-screen that took his defender, Griffin, completely out of the play. pic.twitter.com/3PMZudMtwq
Kuzma may have been the offense’s engine, but it was a collective effort that allowed the Lakers to improve to 3-5 since LeBron James went down with a strained groin.
Ball and Brandon Ingram (10 points, nine rebounds, six assists) had nice all-around games, while Michael Beasley enjoyed his 30th birthday in style.
Beasley — who missed a month of games due to the passing of his mother — had his second straight crucial performance, using his sizzling off-the-dribble game to score a season-high 19 points on 9-of-13 shooting.
“We call Michael Beasley a walking bucket,” JaVale McGee said. “All he needs is some dishwater and a mop. The way he went out there on his birthday and did his thing was amazing.”
Like Kuzma, Beasley heated up in the second half, scoring 15 of his points. With that duo guiding the way, the Lakers (23-19) led by as many as 23 points.
And for Kuzma — a native of Flint, Michigan — it was extra special having his career night against the Pistons (17-22), his favorite team growing up.
“If you would’ve told me two years ago in college that I’d score 40 for the Lakers, I probably wouldn’t believe you,” Kuzma said. “Kinda crazy.”
Kuzma rested the entire fourth quarter. … The Lakers scored 72 points in the paint and shot 56.1 percent from the field. … Pistons scoring leader Blake Griffin was held to 16 points on 6-of-14 shooting with zero rebounds for the first time in his career. … Andre Drummond had 17 rebounds for Detroit, but was kept to six points on 2-of-12 shooting.