It was not a pretty sight, but the Los Angeles Lakers got the job done and fended off a pesky Houston Rockets team for a 124-122 victory on Wednesday night.
The Rockets were without most of their regular rotation players and had to lean on young and inexperienced players, and while the Lakers set a franchise record for points in the paint with 86, they found themselves in a dog fight because of their poor 3-point defense.
Houston drained 18-of-42 of their attempts from deep compared to just 7-of-20 for Los Angeles, finding themselves open on nearly every try because the Lakers were late rotating to their shooters.
The Purple and Gold took a solid seven-point lead late in the fourth quarter, but the Rockets battled back to eventually take control of the game with less than a minute left. However, Kyle Kuzma came up big in the closing moments as he was able to drive all the way to the rim and score what would be the game-winning basket. Kuzma explained what he was seeing and how the play came about.
“I just saw the floor flat,” Kuzma said. “Took my time, waited for everyone to flatten out. They shaded me left and I just made a play trying to get an angle and it worked out well.”
The beginning of the final possession featured a drive from Talen Horton-Tucker that ended with him looking for an outlet which is where Kuzma took control. Kuzma made himself available for a pass and did exactly as he outlined; taking what the defense gave him and making an aggressive move to the basket.
With only two regular-season left in the 2020-21 season, the Lakers unfortunately do not have much time to get a true ramp-up period in and Kuzma said it best when it came to the team’s current situation.
“We just know what time it is right now. It’s time for us to get with it or really get lost. It’s almost the playoffs, it’s time to tighten up the screws, it’s time to gel more, it’s time to play as a team and get back on track. Obviously it helps, I think that Toronto game AD was still rusty that game, but he’s done a great job of getting back into it and obviously that’s helped a lot.
“And for the rest of us, we’re just playing the right way and that’s all you can ask for right now. That’s what we need to do, and continue to do. When LeBron gets back, everyone’s roles are gonna be much smaller and much more detailed. So I think it’s very important for us to continue to do what we’re doing as the other players on the team to continue to play the right way and play with each other and it’s gonna bode well when we’re at full strength.”
Kuzma not worried about LeBron James
LeBron James sat out against the Rockets despite earlier reports saying he would attempt to play. While James has even less time to get his body and mind ready for the postseason, Kuzma expressed that he has no concerns about the star.
“No, I’m not [concerned],” Kuzma said. “I think for him, he knows himself and he knows his body better than anyone else. So I don’t really care if he comes back and he plays Indiana, Pelicans, whatever, and he shoots 45 times just to get a rhythm. He’ll find it, so we’re not worried about that. We’re not worried about no chemistry issues because of the way he plays and gets people involved, everybody knows what to do.”
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