Kyle Kuzma has been enjoying extra minutes on the floor in the absence of Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis. Due to an Achilles injury, Davis missed two of L.A’s three recent overtime games, leading to Kuzma making his sixth start of the 2020-21 campaign in the 114-113 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The 25-year-old forward again showed off his improved focused, turning in 15 points and nine rebounds. Interestingly, Kuzma shot a career-high 37% from behind the 3-point line over the first six weeks of the season despite registering a career-low 10.3 points per game.
However, the Kuzma’s progress has been the most visible on the defensive end, particularly in the paint. Kuzma nearly doubled his block average (0.7 per game this season, 0.4 over the last three years) and grabbed 5.9 rebounds per night, the best return since his debut season.
But when asked whether Davis’ unavailability boosted his contribution in the painted area, the Utah product said it was a result of the role he performs for the Lakers this season. “If [Davis] plays or doesn’t play, it doesn’t matter for me,” Kuzma said.
“My job is to come in and my game is just rebounding right now. Just trying to play as hard as I possibly can. It’s a big factor for this team, it’s what this team needs and that’s what I’m providing.”
Kuzma added the three overtime games didn’t wear him out due to playing less in the first of the back-to-back clashes with the Thunder.
“I mean, I haven’t really played that many big minutes,” he said. “So for me, I’m kind of fresh. That was my first overtime; I didn’t really play in all the other overtimes, so I’m fresh.”
Kuzma: three straight overtime games ‘unacceptable’ for Lakers
Even though the Lakers won each of the overtime games they played, Kuzma found the recent results “unacceptable” for a championship-caliber team like L.A.
The forward said he was satisfied with the “timely stops” the defending NBA champions got in the end but added they would finally have to address the persisting issues.
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