Kyle Kuzma exploded for 35 points in the Rising Stars Challenge, leading Team USA to a 166-144 victory while surpassing Kobe Bryant’s previous record (31) for most points scored by a Los Angeles Lakers player in a Rising Stars game. In the process, he was also voted MVP of the game.
Kyle Kuzma caught fire early for Team USA, finishing with 35 points and earning MVP honors. pic.twitter.com/gxFrOuV14l— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 16, 2019
Kuzma was incredible right from the jump, scoring a game-high 23 points by halftime in just 11 first-half minutes before saying in his halftime interview on TNT that he wanted to use the game to keep in shape for the Lakers’ run to the postseason while they’re off for the NBA All-Star break.
He also had one more goal in mind for the exhibition.
“I’m just kind of using this game for my conditioning,” Kuzma said. “I’m just trying to keep running and win MVP too.”
Most points by a Laker at Rising Stars:— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) February 16, 2019
Kobe Bryant: 31
Eddie Jones: 25
Jordan Clarkson: 25
Kyle Kuzma: 23 (in one half) pic.twitter.com/PF7uC5eBvc
Kuz slowed down a bit off of his prior pace in the second half, but wasn’t aided by Rising Stars coach (and Boston Celtics guard) Kyrie Irving playing his real-life teammate Jason Tatum 26 minutes to Kuzma’s 22.
Still, Kuz was able to overcome that conflict of interest to fulfill his goal and win MVP, and in his acceptance speech, he revealed Team USA’s real motivation for winning the game.
“Last year, the World Team kicked our butts. They came in here and beat us by 30, and a lot of us remembered that,” Kuzma said, before adding “and it’s a $25,000 bonus for winning the game, so that’s good.”
That is good! It was also a demonstration to a national audience that Kuzma is among the most promising young players in the entire NBA, just in case that wasn’t obvious before.
Kuzma will next hit the floor Saturday night for the NBA Skills Challenge as NBA All-Star Weekend continues.
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