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Brook Lopez settles into role with Lakers

Lakers center Brook Lopez drives to the basket against Warriors guard Andre Iguodala during the first half of a game Nov. 29 at Staples Center.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

For the first time in five games, Lakers center Brook Lopez scored in double figures Saturday. He did it mostly in a first half during which the Lakers were strong inside against the ailing Denver Nuggets.

Lopez has been in a bit of a slump lately, as he adjusts to a role with the Lakers that doesn’t always guarantee playing time.

“It is different for me for sure,” Lopez said. “I am used to being out there. I love being out there on the court trying to help my team whenever I can. Obviously I am going to understand and accept my role wherever it may be as long as it helps the team.”

Lopez made one three-pointer Saturday night, ending a four-game drought involving the skill he’d taught himself in order to adapt to the modern NBA. But the modern NBA also means teams often go small, and that is costing Lopez minutes.

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“One of our biggest strengths is our switching lineup with Julius [Randle] at the five,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “That doesn’t allow the opportunity to get him back in there and the game is being played like that and momentum is being built up where you normally go back to your starters, but the way Julius has been playing, [Lopez] doesn’t get that next chance so his minutes are down from his average in his career.”

Lopez has averaged 23.2 minutes per game this season, easily his lowest average of his career. He played 23 on Saturday and scored 15 points.

“I always pride myself on being an inside and outside player and pride myself on what I can do inside the paint,” Lopez said. “I have to get back to doing that.”

First technical foul

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Lonzo Ball was assessed the first technical foul of his career on Saturday shortly after being called for two fouls within a seven-second span.

“I don’t think I deserved a tech for that,” Ball said. “I was talking to Luke, [the ref] overheard it and gave me a tech. I was pretty surprised. … Just missed a call. They are human too, make bad calls, miss some calls, it’s all right.”

Ball said the referee overheard him telling Walton the call was “BS.”

Injury update

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Ball had a slight limp after the game but it isn’t something that’s expected to linger. Ball’s left calf was tight before the game, so he wore a sleeve over it. Then during the game, his right calf tightened up.

Ball will be reevaluated Sunday.

Kyle Kuzma returned after missing a game because of back spasms. Kuzma played 27 minutes and scored 13 points.

“I felt good,” Kuzma said. “I’m getting to 100%.”

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LAKERS TONIGHTVS. HOUSTON

When: 6:30.

On the air: TV: NBATV, Spectrum SportsNet, Spectrum Deportes; Radio: 770, 1330.

Update: Former Clipper Chris Paul will return to Los Angeles for his first game at Staples Center since being traded to the Rockets. Paul is the first player with more than 70 assists and fewer than 10 turnovers in his first seven starts since the NBA began tracking individual turnovers in 1977.

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tania.ganguli@latimes.com

Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli


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