Kyle Kuzma joins long list of injured players as Lakers lose to Timberwolves
Kyle Kuzma had already been playing big minutes on a sprained right ankle. On Friday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves, he sprained his left ankle. Though he tried to return to the game, Kuzma couldn’t.
He played only 18 minutes, half his average since March 3, another injury to a key player as the Lakers’ season winds down.
The Lakers led early against the Timberwolves, a team likely bound for the playoffs, but ultimately fell 113-96. Jeff Teague led all scorers with 25 points, while Jimmy Butler, who played for the first time since missing 17 games with a meniscus injury, scored 18 points. The Lakers committed 21 turnovers.
The Lakers, who were playing without Lonzo Ball or Brandon Ingram, were led by Julius Randle and Josh Hart, each of whom scored 20 points. Their starting point guard, Alex Caruso, was playing his fourth game in four days, having played with the South Bay Lakers in the G League playoffs Tuesday and Thursday, and with the NBA’s Lakers on Wednesday and Friday.
Three others who played Friday — Gary Payton II, Travis Wear and Thomas Bryant — each played three games in four nights.
“Tough man,” Randle said. “They’re flying across the country, back and forth, trying to give us everything they got. They’ve been playing great. We lose Kuz to injury, BI and Zo already out. Josh is already out. It’s been a tough stretch for us. Guys are trying to give the effort. We’ve just gotta keep competing.”
The Lakers took a 12-point lead in the first half with Brook Lopez scoring 18 first-half points. Hart added 12 before the break. The Lakers led by eight at halftime, a lead the Timberwolves quickly erased at the start of the third quarter.
“The way that [the Timberwolves] get after it defensively, if you’re not strong with the ball and you’re not being the aggressor … they’re gonna make you pay,” Lakers Coach Luke Walton said. “They got 100 shots up, we got 79 because of turnovers and offensive rebounds.”
The Lakers have struggled to stay healthy. Ball missed six weeks with a sprained MCL starting Jan. 13. Hart missed 14 games with a broken hand, on which he had surgery. Ingram missed 12 games with a groin strain. He returned for two games before suffering a concussion.
Ingram and Ball might not play again this season, which meant the bodies the Lakers had were all that much more important.
A right ankle injury hadn’t hampered Kuzma. X-rays after the game revealed no fracture on the left one.
“He wanted to play and he showed through the training room and by the way he was playing that it was no concern,” Walton said.
That’s why they knew something was really wrong when Kuzma came to Walton in the third quarter and asked to come out of the game.
“Kuz doesn’t [do that],” Walton said. “He wants to stay out on the floor. He was struggling with it.”
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli
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