Three straight wins — all without Lonzo Ball. Six straight home wins. Winners of seven of their last nine games. These are the numbers after the Lakers survived a flurry of late game missed FT’s and chaos inducing Celtics full court pressing to win 108-107.
It’d be easy to tell the story of this game through the prism of Kyle Kuzma’s fantastic night. The rookie forward scored 17 of his team high 28 points in the 4th quarter, carrying the Lakers offense and dueling with Kyrie Irving in the process. Kuzma truly was the angel of death, throwing fireballs through the net by making six of his seven shots overall — including all three of his shots from deep. Kuzma also dished out the best assist of the night during this stretch, a behind the back beauty after putting Marcus Smart in the spin cycle off a show and go.
Woooo Kuzma got Marcus Smart marooned on no-look island ? pic.twitter.com/quzPeutPOt
— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) January 24, 2018
So, yeah, Kuzma was important and without him the Lakers don’t win. But solely focusing on him does the rest of the team a great disservice, because this really was a full squad effort.
Jordan Clarkson continued his strong play, pouring in 22 points of his own to go along with five rebounds and four assists. JC picked his spots well and outside of a couple of questionable shots, helped keep the Lakers O humming with his slashing and mid-range magic.
Julius Randle was also so important, beasting the Celtics’ interior with strong lefty drives and power post-ups. After a bit of a slow start that saw him struggle with Al Horford’s expert paint protection, Randle decided he would simply bully his way to the rim and then finesse finishes around the rim after moving players to the side. He was also excellent on the both backboards, grabbing 14 total rebounds — including five on the offensive glass. This was a lunchpail game from Randle and it shouldn’t be forgotten because Kuzma got mercury level hot.
Beyond those three, nearly every other role player had his moments.
Larry Nance missed a double-double by a single rebound (11 points, 9 boards) while flashing his normal verve for doing all the little things. Brook Lopez’s 12 points and two rebounds might not stand out, but his work in the post in the 3rd quarter helped turn the game around and push momentum in the Lakers favor. Josh Hart may have only had four points on 2-4 shooting, but he was mostly steady defensively and was a key cog in the lineups that helped fend off the C’s throughout the 2nd half (as reflected by his team high +7 in the boxscore).
This was a true team effort and while there were several things to not like, a win is a win. When that W comes against the Celtics, who are at the top of their conference and in possession of the league’s best defense, I’m going to feel good. And when that win comes with Marcus Smart feeling himself so much after a strong 1st half shooting that he declined to pass to Terry Rozier on the final play in order to shoot a step back 3 pointer to try to win the game at the buzzer, but missed…I’m going to laugh a petty cackle and re-tweet the video clip of the miss every time it hits my timeline.
Enjoy this one, ya’ll.