The absence of LeBron James has created an offensive void in the Los Angeles Lakers lineup.
The Lakers have often had trouble filling that chasm, going 2-5 since he suffered a Christmas Day groin injury.
Wednesday was not one of those nights.
Kuzma lights up Pistons
Kyle Kuzma filled James’ void and more, needing just three quarters to score 41 points in a 113-98 win. His 22-point third quarter gave the Lakers a big enough cushion to allow him to rest the entire fourth quarter.
It was a career-high for the second-year forward, even though his rest in the fourth quarter cost him a shot at 50 and a chance to align himself with rare company.
Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Cedric Ceballos and LeBron James are the only Lakers to score 50 points in a game in the last 30 years, according to ESPN. Bryant, of course, did it 25 times.
Kuzma not upset about being denied shot at 50
He wasn’t upset about it, telling ESPN after the game he didn’t push coach Luke Walton to let him back in the game.
“I didn’t at all,” Kuzma said. “It’s Beasley’s birthday. And he hadn’t played much this year. I was super happy for him.”
Beasley, of course, is Michael Beasley, who put on his own show late, scoring 15 points in the fourth quarter to keep the Lakers comfortably ahead and Kuzma watching from the sideline.
The little-used forward tallied 19 points, four assists, two rebounds and two blocks in 19 minutes.
But it was Kuzma’s night as the Lakers won for the third time in eight games since James was sidelined.
He got hot from distance, hitting 5-of-10 3-point attempts and 16-of-24 field goals. He didn’t do much else, adding a pair of rebounds and three turnovers. But his scoring effort was more than enough to give the Lakers a late comfortable cushion.
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