Although it wasn’t the prettiest victory, the Los Angeles Lakers were able to start their seeding games off on the right foot by defeating the L.A. Clippers.
Anthony Davis was incredible as expected, but the more important development was from Kyle Kuzma, who put together one of his best games of the season when L.A. needed it most. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel put his faith in Kuzma in the third quarter when the Lakers trailed by 11 points.
Kuzma — along with Davis and Alex Caruso — helped spark a turnaround that led to an eventual win. While Kuzma has always been known as an offensive player, it was his defense that stood out.
“He was exceptional tonight. He’s had some other strong performances this year, so I don’t know if it was the best. It’s right up there with one of those,” Vogel said. “In particular, when when was switched on to Kawhi he had some really good possessions and helped us get stops.
“He works really hard on that end. Certain matchups are more favorable for him, but he was terrific tonight. Like you said, when we put A.D. at the 5, if he can perform like that on the defensive end, we’re going to win a lot of game.”
Kuzma remained humble, discussing how well the whole team played. “I like how we played as a team. Everyone did their job, filled their role and we got a win,” he said.
It was clear that the Lakers were not close to being in full rhythm just yet, as they shot just 39% from the field and turned the ball over 16 times. However, Kuzma’s defense was one thing that L.A. can certainly look towards as hope for the remainder of the season.
If Kuzma can maintain that level of defensive pressure and intensity on opposing stars –especially if he’s also making shots — it makes the Lakers a very dangerous and difficult team to beat in a seven-game series.
Vogel praises Kuzma’s overall improvement during hiatus
Vogel has not just been impressed with Kuzma’s defense, as he recently spoke about how much the young forward has improved as a passer.
“In terms of any tweaks to his game, we really have always been on him — and our whole group — about reading defense and just making the right play,” Vogel said. “If that means you come off and have nine or 10 assists and very limited shot attempts because that’s what the defense gives you, then that’s the right way to play.
“About a week in an intrasquad scrimmage, he had about four or five great passes in a row. I came over and I said, ‘I’m not going to tell you great job passing the ball. I’m going to come over and tell you great job reading the defense.’ That’s all we want him to do, and he’s been doing a great job with it.”
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