The Los Angeles Lakers started their highly-anticipated playoff run with a 100-93 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, enduring another bleak offensive performance. The Lakers found themselves down by 16 points in the first quarter but bounced back thanks to the effort of the second unit led by Kyle Kuzma.
The third-year forward ended the game with 14 points and eight rebounds, helping the Lakers stay in the game before Portland sealed the win with a late run. Kuzma yet again proved he is the a reliable sixth man for Lakers head coach Frank Vogel after emerging as one of the team’s few bright spots of the NBA restart.
Vogel heavily experimented with his rotations during the eight seeding games preceding the playoffs, trying Kuzma in several different lineups. One included the Lakers going small with the Utah product starting alongside Anthony Davis in the center position.
But Kuzma has admitted he expects roles to clarify as the series with Portland goes on. “It feels like it changes a little bit every game,” Kuzma said of Vogel’s rotations. “I think as the playoffs go you should tighten it up, but we’ll see.”
Kuzma previously said he was happy filling the sixth man role, trying to be the best teammate possible for Lakers All-Stars LeBron James and Davis when on the floor. But he remains ready to move to the starting lineup if necessary.
“If they call on me to start, obviously you guys have seen what I done, what I do,” Kuzma said. “Just come in and try to be myself, play fun, play free-spirited.”
Following the loss to Portland, Vogel did not rule out making changes to his rotations, opening the door for a smaller starting lineup including Kuzma later in the series. “We’ve had a good blend throughout the year where we play big and small every game, and we have the ability to manipulate that,” Vogel said.
And he added: “The way you started throughout the course of a season isn’t how you always stay throughout a seven-game series,” he said.
Kuzma not discouraged by Game 1 loss
Despite his good cameo, Kuzma was disappointed the Blazers took an early advantage in the series. But the forward says he does not feel the pressure has increased because of the Lakers fell behind their rivals.
“I slept good last night,” he said. “It’s just basketball. Obviously it’s the playoffs and high pressure, but it’s just basketball. You can’t dwell on it because we play every other day.”
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