Sometimes they chanted "Kuuuz!" When he went to the free-throw line they tried "M-V-P!"
There was little for the Lakers to celebrate during their 121-104 Christmas Day loss to the
Only three rookies have scored more points on Christmas since the 1976-77 season than Kuzma: James, Bill Cartwright (33 in 1979) and Patrick Ewing (32 in 1985).
"I know this about Kuzma: I know what he's about, how he likes to compete," coach
The Lakers have lost six of their past seven games, and for this one their list of ailments was too long.
Their other rookie star,
On Monday night the Lakers just sought to get through it.
Walton started Jordan Clarkson, a more natural shooting guard, for the first time this season in place of Ball and
The Lakers trailed by nine after the first quarter but by only one at halftime.
The Lakers even had a chance late in the game. They led by one early in the fourth quarter, then Minnesota ripped off a 13-0 run with the help of a couple of turnovers. Later the Lakers cut a 14-point lead to six, but Minnesota pulled away behind 58.3% shooting. Jimmy Butler and
"We had a couple turnovers, missed a lot of free throws," Kuzma said of the Lakers' 14-of-20 shooting from the line. "Couldn't really recover when those guys went iso. They did a good job of picking out weaknesses in our defense."
Clarkson, who often sparks the Lakers off the bench, wasn't nearly effective in an increased role: He took 24 shots but made just eight, for 17 points. Hart had 12 points on five-for-13 shooting.
After the game, Walton didn't immediately know quite what to make of it. Having had to put together lineups like parts on a Mr. Potato Head doll, there were groups of guys playing together who hadn't done that much at all. He said he needed to check the film before drawing any conclusions.
At his locker during his postgame interview, Kuzma was told just how impressive his performance was; that rookies usually don't get this chance on Christmas, and when they do they rarely perform like he did.
Did that mean anything to him?
"No," Kuzma said. "Not really."
It meant nothing?
"Of course it's cool," Kuzma said. "But at the same time I expect to do all this. Work hard so I should be doing all this. It's not a surprising type feel. But it's definitely cool to reach those milestones."