Tuesday’s game against the Utah Jazz not only marked the final true road game for the Los Angeles Lakers this season — they face the Clippers (designated home team) next week — but it also was a homecoming of sorts for Kyle Kuzma.
He played four years at the University of Utah, spending his collegiate career in a setting and environment that differs greatly from his hometown of Flint, Mich. When the Lakers’ first traveled to Salt Lake City, it was merely Kuzma’s sixth game as a rookie.
He made little of making a second visit. But after receiving a loud applause during pregame introductions and cheers after made baskets, Kuzma expressed his gratitude for the treatment, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“It’s always cool to come back here. I pretty much grew up here, maturity-wise, being here at Utah. It just has a place in my heart. It’s really special to have a reception like that and see that people still remember me.”
Kuzma scored the first points of the game and connected on his first four attempts. His early offense sparked the Lakers to a 20-11 lead, and they were ahead by 12 points at the end of the first quarter.
But the Jazz mounted an 11-0 run in the second quarter to take a lead they never lost thanks in large part to Ricky Rubio. Kuzma finished with 26 points on 9-for-18 shooting, to go along with six rebounds, one assist and one steal in 36 minutes.
He essentially matched the production from Rookie of the Year candidate Donovan Mitchell, who also had 26 points and six rebounds. Mitchell fared better from deep, making half of his eight attempts, while Kuzma shot 1-for-4.
In his first road game against the Jazz, the rookie forward had a mere nine points, three rebounds and three assists in 22 minutes.