Kyle Kuzma sat at his locker with an ice machine strapped around his left ankle, which he sprained prior to this nine-day road trip. Next to him was Lonzo Ball, who had one wrapped around his left knee as well as an old-fashioned ice pack over his right knee.
The two rookies had each played more than 40 minutes Monday in the trip’s finale. Though young, they’re already learning to pay heed to their bodies and their recovery.
“I’ve been taking care of my body pretty well ever since I’ve been back from injury,” Ball said. “It doesn’t really affect me too much right now. Helps that I’m only 20.”
The Lakers lost to the Detroit Pistons 112-106 after leading at halftime. They’ll return home to play eight of their final nine games at Staples Center. The Lakers finished the road trip 1-3, with a win over the Memphis Grizzlies and losses in Indiana and New Orleans. They are now 32-41 this season while the Pistons improved to 34-40.
“I knew we were going to get tired; it’s been a long trip,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “We had our chances. Give them credit. They hit shots down the stretch, we missed some good looks that we’ve been making, but I’m really proud of our group for the way that they fought all trip long with being down in numbers and playing.”
Kuzma and Julius Randle each notched a double-double. Randle led all scorers with 23 points and added 11 rebounds. Kuzma had 20 points and 11 rebounds.
For the second consecutive game, Ball was two rebounds away from a triple-double (15 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds). He made seven of eight shots, including his only three-point attempt. Ball only made one of six three-point attempts on Saturday and one of 12 two games ago.
“He was under control all game,” Walton said. “The ones he were hitting were good shots, which I think kind of shows how much he’s been working on his game. Those are shots he wasn’t even shooting earlier in the year. Some of those threes I thought he should have taken — and I know the percentage has been down — but he did a nice job of when he did pass up an open three, at least being aggressive and either making a midrange or finding an open teammate.”
Ball has had two triple-doubles this season, but said he doesn’t watch his stats when he gets close.
“I like to play free,” Ball said. “I don’t like looking at stats. I go out there focus on the score.”
Point guard Reggie Jackson led the Pistons with 20 points. Andre Drummond had 15 points and 18 rebounds, including 15 on the defensive end.
The Lakers have had a limited number of available players all trip, but it improved on Monday. They brought Gary Payton II and Thomas Bryant back from their developmental affiliate, the South Bay Lakers. Channing Frye played for the first time since having an appendectomy during the All-Star break, giving the Lakers 11 available players. They only had eight on Saturday.
The Lakers had a three-point lead after one quarter and it grew to 10 with a 7-2 run in the second quarter, punctuated by a dunk by Kuzma.