With the news that Anthony Davis would be out for at least two more weeks with his Achilles and calf injuries and Alex Caruso leaving in the first half with a head contusion, the Lakers needed all the help they could get to beat the Indiana Pacers on a night they didn’t have a lot going for them offensively for most of the first three quarters.
In the fourth quarter, the Lakers got the burst they needed. LeBron James returned to the game, and a lineup featuring him, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Wesley Matthews and Dennis Schröder ripped off a 12-2 run to retake the lead and give the Lakers something they haven’t gotten enough of this season: Some real help from their reserves.
The result? A hard-fought, 105-100 win that snapped a two-game losing streak and allowed the Lakers to start the second half of the season with a much-needed victory.
Kuzma had a genuinely great game off the bench, scoring a team-high 24 points and hitting timely shots in the fourth quarter to help the Lakers close the distance between themselves and the Pacers before taking the lead. His defensive rebounding (10 on the night, and 13 rebounds total) was additionally critical to end possessions and help the Lakers push the pace.
He missed a shot with seconds remaining that would have taken away the Pacers’ chance to tie things up and send this game to overtime, but given that they won, that hardly feels like something to criticize him too much for on a night he was so excellent, especially when Kentavious Caldwell-Pope immediately came up with a
Klutch clutch steal and free throws to put this one away right afterwards.
Kuzma also gave us an instant quote of the year candidate after the game.
So to recap, Kuz, on LeBron finding him for that corner three.— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) March 13, 2021
"We were looking at each other the entire possession. I was pretty much eye fucking him to pass me the ball. He found me and I made the shot."
I had to clip this Kyle Kuzma (@kylekuzma) quote because it is absolutely PRICELESS!! (Question by @mcten and funny reaction by @DanWoikeSports) - I couldn't keep it together. Too funny! pic.twitter.com/w0xoFHtDof— Ryan Ward (@RyanWardLA) March 13, 2021
Harrell also once again brought invaluable energy for Los Angeles, finishing just about everything around the rim to score 17 points on 8-11 shooting, and even playing some key back line defense to end the night with 3 blocks. The Lakers are going to need more nights like this from him for as long as Davis is sidelined. James said after the game that the team hadn’t asked him specifically to step up his scoring with Davis out, but that they didn’t need to.
“Some things go without saying,” James said. “We all have to step up in AD’s absence, and Trezz did that tonight on both ends. Especially in that fourth quarter, he stepped up big-time offensively and we needed that push. We had a few quarters where we didn’t shoot the ball well, we weren’t making shots, but we hang our hats on our defense and then Trezz got it going in that fourth quarter, and that was big-time.”
He also said he thinks that Harrell is getting more comfortable on both ends of the floor.
“You’ve got to realize, though, that this is only like game 37 of Trezz with us. It’s a brand new system, a brand new team. He’s learning us. He played so many games with the Clippers and he knew the system in and out with those guys for years,” James said. “He’s getting better and better every single game and we’re going to continue to need his energy and effort on both ends of the floor.”
And their team needed all of it, because while it would be a lie to say James was bad in this one — he wasn’t — this was far from his best game of the season. He finished with 18 points on 5-13 shooting, and while he’s still the electrical system that powers this Lakers machine, he definitely got a boost from the backup generators on this occasion.
The Lakers are now 25-13, and will have two days off before hosting the Golden State Warriors on Monday. We’ll see you there.