Late in Wednesday night’s game, the Staples Center video board played a happy birthday song for Michael Beasley and then showed the Lakers forward on the screen.
He turned 30 on Wednesday and played an increasingly important role for the Lakers. Beasley had been away for most of the fall as he said goodbye to his mother, who died on Dec. 23. His teammates enjoyed any time they spent around him and continue to do so.
“I love these guys,” Beasley said. “They make everything a lot easier.”
Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 113-100 win over the Pistons.
1. Beasley showed how comfortable he’s getting contributing for the Lakers. He scored 19 points in nearly 19 minutes, making nine of his 13 shots. He also had four assists, two rebounds and two blocks. The time he spent away from the team meant that he isn’t quite in full game shape yet. “I was a little winded due to my absence but it just felt good,” he said. He replaced Kyle Kuzma, who didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter, and said he didn’t lobby to get back into the game. “I was happy for Beas,” Kuzma said. “It’s his birthday, and he doesn’t get the most playing time like a lot of us. I was cheering him on.”
2. Speaking of Kuzma, Wednesday’s game showed not only his offensive acumen (a career-high 41 points) but the growth he’s had defensively. Lakers coach Luke Walton said defending Blake Griffin was a big part of Kuzma’s job Wednesday night. “He wants that challenge of being a defender,” Walton said. “He’s almost like the guy other teams bring up in the pick-and-roll and pick on him.…We’ve talked to him about that too and showed him the film.” Kuzma’s desire to get better is now combining with his improved execution. Walton noted that Kuzma is still not all the way where he needs to be, but has improved immensely.
3. The Lakers are always their most successful when they move the ball well. They did that Wednesday night. “Our offense flowed really, really good,” Brandon Ingram said. “We didn’t care who shot the shot, we just cared about it going in. Crashing the boards, getting to the rim, our shooters knocking down shots. Whatever it was, we did a really, really good job of it.” Walton noted that the ball did a good job of “skipping” around during the game. “Until it hit Kuz’s hand,” he said. “And then it was going up every time.”
4. Ingram and Lonzo Ball had really strong nights too. They didn’t have the kind of scoring outbursts Kuzma did, but they picked up where they left off from Monday’s game and did a really solid job of doing all the little things that were important to the Lakers’ win. Ball had some pretty incredible passes too, finishing with 11 assists. The change can be traced back to a conversation the two of them had Sunday night in Dallas. “Just playing with a lot more energy, playing like we’re the leaders on this team right now, and trying to lead the charge and get the wins,” Ball said. “That talk helped us a lot.”