Five takeaways from the Lakers’ 122-112 win over the San Antonio Spurs
Kyle Kuzma found a Nick Van Exel jersey at a vintage shop.
“I saw it and I was like, I’ve got to get it,” he said. “So came in with it. Hear people like it.”
He wore it on his way into Wednesday night’s game, then he helped his team do something no Lakers team had done since Van Exel’s last season in L.A. He helped the Lakers sweep the season series with the San Antonio Spurs.
Kuzma’s fashion choice wasn’t close to the most noteworthy thing about him Wednesday night. The Lakers found a way to push through the second night of a back-to-back. They’ll get some much needed rest on Thursday.
Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 122-112 overtime win over the Spurs.
1. If you are enjoying the start of Kuzma’s career and experiencing his growth on a nightly basis, you are not alone. “It’s fun watching him compete at that level, when he gets in that area and that zone,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “I think he’s doing a really nice job of not trying to do that all the time, understanding time and score, understand when he has it going, when the team needs him to score a big bucket. He obviously has a long way to go with that, but for him to already kind of start to feel that out, it’s exciting for the future and for his growth as a player.”
The Lakers like to give their players what they can handle, and right now they are, to some degree, holding their breath with Kuzma’s minutes. He’s averaging 39 minutes a game since March 3, more than any other rookie during that time.
Fatigue leads to injury, and Kuzma is playing through an ankle injury. He had his right foot soaking in a bucket of ice postgame on Wednesday. So far he hasn’t suffered a worse injury. He love the minutes and thrives with them. Walton isn’t going to take those away as long as he sees effort on offense and defense and good decision making.
2. With so many injuries and several reserves playing with the South Bay Lakers, the Los Angeles Lakers’ rotations have shrunk to eight or nine players. That’s why Kuzma’s minutes have been so high, and he’s not alone. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope played 40 minutes in Utah on Tuesday and then 37 against the Spurs, and he could feel the impact of those minutes during the game.
3. Lakers crowds show up even when the team is terrible and provide a better atmosphere nightly than most teams around the league have. The Lakers were counting on that Wednesday night. Walton said he knew the energy from the crowd would help energize their tired bodies. Caldwell-Pope corroborated that. “We fed off the crowd mostly,” he said. “I was talking to a couple guys on the bench. We all were tired. But [we were] just feeding off the support from the fans and just digging within and just playing hard.”
4. Channing Frye gave the Lakers a nice boost. Frye’s minutes have increased lately since his recovery from a February appendectomy. He played a season-high 26 minutes on Wednesday and scored 19 points on eight-of-nine shooting. His only miss was a dunk attempt that caused Walton to quip that Frye wasn’t allowed to dunk anymore.
5. Tyler Ennis has scored in double digits in back-to-back games now. His late score gave the Lakers a two-point lead in the fourth quarter on Wednesday. Although Ennis didn’t start, the point guard played 31 minutes and helped finish the win.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli
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