On a night where Anthony Davis struggled to get going, Kyle Kuzma stepped up for the Los Angeles Lakers in a big way in the third game of the NBA Finals.
Kuzma scored 19 points on Sunday while shooting 6-13 from the field; the former a new postseason career-high for him. He finished the game a +6 in the box score.
The bulk of Kuzma’s offense came from the corners, where he was able to convert four of his five corner 3-point attempts. For the postseason, Kuzma has converted 13 of the 31 corner 3-pointers he’s attempted (41.9%).
In the Western Conference semifinals, Kuzma began to make a conscious effort to move away from the corners and towards the basket. In that series, Kuzma shot an efficient 56.1% from the field while attempting just 14 3-point attempts in five games.
Kuzma looked confident in cutting to the basket, but in the Finals, Kuzma’s attacked the basket far less. But that’s not a result of Kuzma abandoning his game plan; it’s a result of adapting to his opponent.
“I think the biggest thing is for me just studying the game, realizing what my strengths are and what teams are trying to take away from my game,” Kuzma said during his media availability on Monday. “Obviously, the Houston series I was corners cutting, and this series they’re definitely keying in a little bit more on those cuts. I’m just making my own adjustments, and they work.”
Unfortunately, the Lakers lost Game 3 in spite of Kuzma’s big night, and now the Heat are one game away from tying the series up. When the Lakers lose games like they did on Sunday, some fans like to point the finger at Kuzma, who they expect have 19-point outings on a regular basis.
Kuzma sees the hate he gets on social media, and the memes, but they don’t bother him — he just wants to win.
“I really, honestly don’t care,” Kuzma said. “You either love or hate someone. It doesn’t matter. I dyed my hair blonde this year. Like, I don’t give a fuck. I don’t care. Twitter is for jokes. I laugh at jokes too. It really doesn’t affect me at all.”
The truth is that Kuzma’s been fine in his role this season. He hasn’t been without his faults, but neither has anyone else on the team. For example, LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined for 13 turnovers on Sunday.
Could Kuzma be better? Sure, but if the Lakers win a championship this season, he’ll be just as deserving of a ring as everyone else in the locker room because he helped them get to this point. Love him or hate him, he wants the same thing the fans do.