LOS ANGELES — Every week after struggling a decrease again contusion, and two days after lacking 16 of the 20 photographs he tried in his return to the courtroom, Kyle Kuzma scored a career-high 41 factors within the Los Angeles Lakers’ 113-100 win over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday.
And he did it in solely three quarters.
“My teammates allowed me to get so much of photographs, discovering me,” mentioned Kuzma, who shot 16-for-24 from the sector and eclipsed his earlier finest of 38 factors. “And I believe for essentially the most half, every thing was within the rhythm of the offense, which was a great factor for everyone.”
Kuzma, who says he grew up modeling his recreation after Kobe Bryant, warmed up carrying a pair of Nike Zoom Kobe 1s, the identical mannequin Bryant wore when he scored a franchise-record 81 factors.
Kuzma obtained a kick out of a meme circulating on social media after Wednesday’s recreation exhibiting a smiling Bryant giving a thumbs-up with the caption: “Kuzma dropped 41 with no assists?? MAMBA MENTALITY.”
Lakers coach Luke Walton, who has urged Kuzma to increase his recreation in his second season by trying to cross extra, took a good-natured jab at Kuzma’s zero-assist whole on an evening when the Lakers notched 30 assists on 46 baskets.
“It felt like [the ball] was skipping round on the market till it hit Kuz’s hand, after which it was going up each time,” Walton mentioned with a smile.
Kuzma provided a gentle rebuttal.
“I used to be nonetheless attempting to search for teammates,” he mentioned. “My assists do not replicate that, but when I am open, I am going to shoot.”
Kuzma, a local of Flint, Michigan, had additional motivation to shoot against the Pistons, with loads of family and friends tuning into the sport again residence.
“It is fairly cool, actually,” Kuzma mentioned. “That is the workforce I grew up watching. My fondest reminiscences is them beating the Lakers [in the 2004 NBA Finals]. Bit of a coincidence. But it surely’s fairly superior, particularly to do it in Staples [Center] is superior.”
It was the Lakers’ second straight win, making them Three-5 since LeBron James (groin) and Rajon Rondo (ring finger surgical procedure) went out as a result of of accidents after Christmas Day.
And it was a a lot stronger efficiency for Kuzma than the 13 factors on Four-for-20 capturing he had within the Lakers’ win in Dallas on Monday.
To make up for that off evening, Walton mentioned Kuzma reported to the Lakers’ observe facility Tuesday — despite the fact that the workforce had the day without work — and tried 500 bounce photographs.
“I do know I am an important shooter,” Kuzma mentioned. “My percentages could not replicate that, however I am all the time assured in capturing, and I am all the time within the fitness center simply attempting to proceed to put work in each single day, and it paid off immediately. Simply obtained to proceed to be constant with that.”
It wasn’t misplaced on Kuzma both that in the identical season Bryant scored 81, he preceded it by scoring 62 in three quarters.
“Solely midway to 81,” Kuzma informed ESPN. “That is OK, I am going to get an opportunity to do it once more.”
With the Lakers extending their lead to 23 factors, and Kuzma carrying a warmth pad on his sore again, Walton saved him on the bench within the fourth quarter despite the fact that there was some historical past at stake. Had Kuzma hit for 50 factors, he would have joined James as the one Lakers teammates to rating 50-plus in the identical season since Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Rudy LaRusso did so in 1961-62, in accordance to analysis by ESPN Stats & Info.
Kuzma mentioned he was high quality with Walton preserving him on the bench as a result of it opened the door for Michael Beasley, who turned 30 on Wednesday, to shine.
“I used to be completely satisfied for Beas,” Kuzma mentioned. “It is his birthday, and he does not get essentially the most enjoying time like so much of us. I used to be cheering him on. I used to be completely satisfied for him.”
Beasley, the previous No. 2 select of Kansas State, scored 15 of his 19 factors within the fourth, ending 9-for-13 from the sector in 19 minutes. The efficiency got here after he scored 13 factors in 9 minutes against the Mavericks on Monday as he continues to reacclimate himself with the workforce after lacking almost all of December as a result of of the dying of his mom, Fatima Smith, who died of most cancers.
Beasley credited his teammates for serving to him by the tragedy.
“It means every thing,” Beasley mentioned. “I really like these guys. They make life so much simpler.”