Beating the Boston Celtics is high on the priority list for the Los Angeles Lakers franchise, perhaps only one or two notches below collecting as many Larry O’ Brien trophies as possible. It was Kyle Kuzma who took control of the latest rivalry battle Tuesday night, dropping 28 points on Boston en route to a big win for the purple and gold.
His 28 points, three assists and four rebounds were key in securing the win, but it was his 17-point outburst in the fourth quarter that made this win special. Watching one of the young Lakers forge a path to victory over Boston was a big moment for the core.
Kuzma started to feel the rhythm early in the game, getting into the flow early on.
“First half, I thought I did a pretty good job of picking my spots in the first half and scoring, and I knew once I saw a couple shots go in,” Kuzma said after the game when asked when he knew it was his night.
Check out the video breakdown below, and keep reading for in-depth thoughts, quotes and more:
How Kyle Kuzma broke the Celtics with his 4th quarter brilliance
It was a good day for the Los Angeles Lakers after Kyle Kuzma dropped 17 points in the fourth quarter to lead the way over the Celtics. Here's how Kuzma broke their spirit: bit.ly/2E5oQYWPosted by Silver Screen and Roll on Wednesday, January 24, 2018
The Lakers took a two-point advantage into the fourth quarter, but the Celtics would take back the lead within minutes of the final frame opening. Then, the Kuzma takeover began.
“The rim,” Kuzma said when asked what he saw once the fourth quarter started heating up. “I just felt like every time I touched it, I was just trying to score it. Thought I was in a good rhythm, they went in.”
It doesn’t hurt to have footwork like this... :
... to create separation from his man and get a clean shot off.
“It’s a fine line with Kuz because we need his scoring, and we need his gunslinger mentality. But with that comes some bad shots, so we show them all of his shots, and we talk about good ones versus bad ones,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton said after the game.
Gunslinger indeed, Kuzma was firing at Boston, even with hands in his face:
He also executed one of the filthiest spin moves of his rookie season yet, completely befuddling Al Horford with his fancy footwork:
And even when he wasn’t touching the ball, Kuzma remained engaged. This offensive rebound and putback was huge in the final minutes of a contest decided by one point, especially with the Lakers struggling at the free-throw line once again:
But in the midst of all his scoring was a behind-the-back no-look pass that might have brought tears of joy to Magic Johnson’s eyes. Kuzma’s dish to Larry Nance Jr., as both teams exchanged jabs, was a treat. It’s also something Kyle’s been trying to incorporate into his game, even when he’s more relied on as a scorer.
“I think the past 10-to-12 games have been a pretty good job of really facilitating too, getting teammates into the mix, not really having nights where I have 20 points, zero assists. Just trying to find guys, and it’s been helping,” Kuzma said.
Walton gave his take on the dime, calling it the kind of play that deflates opponents.
“We talk about what he did a really nice job of tonight, being a playmaker when he gets going, and that really demoralizes a defense ...
“When he drives and they come to double him, and he throws a pass to Larry for a dunk, that’s really winning basketball right there. It’s going to be a constant learning curve, and there’s not a definite answer when you’re dealing with someone that plays like Kuz plays,” Walton said.
This kind of play is exactly how Kuzma’s quickly won the heart of Lakers fans, analysts and the franchise since the moment he was drafted:
“Right when I got in the paint,” Kuzma told reporters, explaining when he knew Leaping Larry would be ready for such an out-of-nowhere pass. “Got in the paint, bumped ‘em off a little bit, then I saw Larry’s guy come over try to block, and the ball was already low so it was just the right pass to make.”
No doubt that was the right pass to make. Smile on, Kuzma, you deserve it after delivering one of the most memorable 12-minute stretches of the season: