LeBron James said he loved Kyle Kuzma’s efficiency after the Lakers forward scored a team-high 24 points in Los Angeles’ 128-120 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Kuzma’s season may have turned a corner on Saturday night with a 24-point performance that helped the Lakers snap their season-long four-game losing streak. James contributed 21 points and 16 assists.
“We want him to be that third scorer for us, consistently get to 18 to 20 points a night. More important, it’s just the efficiency right now that I love,” James said of Kuzma, who was 9-of-17 from the field.
“He is just been very efficient mixing it up with his threes, his paint touches. You saw it tonight on the break as well, just mixing it up.”
Kuzma highlighted a strong performance by the Lakers’ reserves, who provided 72 bench points. Portland’s bench scored 39 points.
It was the type of night the Lakers have expected for Kuzma all season as he has battled through several injuries and a reduction in minutes. Kuzma scored over 20 points for the second straight game.
“Yeah, I’m just healthy now,” Kuzma said of another strong performance. “I am confident in my body. I took a little bit of time off, sitting out for five games and really just self-collected what I needed to do and got it done.”
Anthony Davis added 20 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers. The win also helped the Lakers move on from a disappointing Christmas day loss to their crosstown rival Clippers.
“We were all pretty upset about the last game,” Davis said. “We just wanted to make an effort to come in and get back in the win column. We were able to pull this one out.”
Head coach Frank Vogel, who told his team prior to the game that he wanted his team angry and edgy, picked up a technical in the first quarter.
“I got an early tech, I wanted our group to feel that,” Vogel said after the game. “It’s not fun losing. We’re a good team and we were able to use that to our advantage and take it out on this team.
“We were not happy losing that Christmas day game and certainly were not happy losing four in a row. We have a lot of habits that we need to tighten the screws on.”
The game was a high-scoring affair. Both teams scored over 30 points and shot over 50 per cent from the field in the first quarter as the Lakers built a two-point lead. In the fourth quarter, neither team cracked 30 points.
Davis had nine points in the third quarter and an assist to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for a three-pointer with 0.1 seconds left to give the Lakers a 103-95 lead after three.
“Anytime he is on the floor, any second he is on the floor he makes an impact,” James said of Davis stretch to close the third quarter. “We expect nothing less. He is just great.”
A dunk by Davis on a lob from James pushed the Lakers to a 127-115 lead with 1:37 left and sealed the win.
Want to watch the NBA but don’t have Sky Sports? Get the Sky Sports Action and Arena pack, click here.