Representing the Los Angeles Lakers in the MTN DEW ICE Rising Stars Challenge for a second consecutive year, Kyle Kuzma scored 35 points to help lead Team USA to a 161-144 win over Team World. He additionally was named 2019 MTN DEW ICE Rising Stars MVP.
Kobe Bryant held the Lakers record with 31 points in the exhibition game. Kuzma scored 20 points off the bench in last year’s Rising Stars, which the World won by 31 points at Staples Center.
Similar to what’s been seen from him in a handful of games this season, Kuzma was in an early offensive rhythm. He scored 14 of Team USA’s 20 points within the first four minutes of the game and led all players with 23 points at halftime.
Ben Simmons got off to a similarly strong start, but Team USA began to pull away behind strong play from their second unit. Simmons helped the World climb back into it before USA again stretched out their lead to double digits.
When the World again cut into their deficit in the third quarter, USA had another answer. Though, it did not involve much from Kuzma as he curiously began the second half on the bench. He did check back in midway through the third but only scored two points before the game went into the fourth quarter.
An 11-2 run sparked by a 3-pointer from Donovan Mitchell and a pair of threes by Trae Young put USA ahead by 13 points with just over seven minutes remaining in the game. Rather than seal a win, USA went cold and missed their next 11 shots.
The drought was snapped by Kuzma flushing down a dunk out of a timeout followed by knocking down two free throws on Team USA’s next possession. Another flurry from Kuzma late in the quarter ultimately put the World away.
USA snapped the World’s two-game winning streak and earned just their second victory in five attempts since the NBA changed to the current format.
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