The Los Angeles Lakers took out the Denver Nuggets on Monday night thanks to a late 3-pointer from Kyle Kuzma and the young forward didn’t hold back after his big shot.
When asked about the game-winner, Kuzma dropped a line about Jesus to describe the shot over the lengthy 7-foot-2 Bol Bol.
“I think Jesus could be in front of me and I’d probably still shoot,” Kuzma said. “I mean, it doesn’t really matter to me. I got an open look. It’s a play we kind of ran in practice a few times prior to the restart, and coach had faith in me and called my number and it paid off.
“It just shows that my teammates and my coaches, they trust in me, the trust they have in me, every time we ran that play in practice I’ve kind of hit that shot. Obviously the play 9 out of 10 times is going to LeBron, but they called my number. It’s all about trust.”
The 25 points against the Nuggets were the most since January for Kuzma. But it spoke volumes that the Lakers were willing to go to him in crunch time.
“We’re going to need all of our guys, but Kyle has that ability to really give length and athleticism and just a hard-playing approach on the defensive end while being able to get hot offensively,” Vogel said. “We can’t rely on our two big guys to carry the whole load. Its a team game and he’s continuing to make the right reads and make the right plays. There’s been a big jump in that since the restart in his game from where he was at from where we left off. He can be huge for us.”
LeBron James Sets High Bar for Kyle Kuzma
When the Lakers arrived in the bubble, they were the favorites. But much of the perception of the Lakers being a bubble juggernaut have changed due to their bubble struggles, going just 2-4 before their win against Denver. LeBron James sees Kuzma as a key going forward.
“In order for us to win a championship, he has to be our third-best player,” James said. “If I’m struggling, or if AD’s struggling, he has to be our second-best player.”
Kuzma admitted after the game that he’s not discouraged coming off the bench, considering it’s Anthony Davis and LeBron James drawing the start in front of him.
“I’m starting on most teams in this league and everyone knows it,” Kuzma said. “It just so happens I play behind the best-two players in the NBA, so it doesn’t really matter to me. I’m just trying to fill in my role, trying to find a niche and trying to win because that’s really all that matters.”
Frank Vogel Weights Keeping Kyle Kuzma in Starting Lineup
Kuzma has performed well when inserted into the starting lineup, but it’s unlikely he stays there when the Lakers are 100 percent healthy. Kuzma started on Monday with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope sidelined.
Vogel does not think he’ll keep Kuzma in the starting lineup when the playoffs roll around, unless the matchup makes sense.
“I think it’s unlikely we keep him in the starting lineup,” Vogel said. “It’s something we have available depending on which matchup we are looking at. We are likely going to need two quick guards with most of these teams we could be facing. It’s a small ball league.