While the Los Angeles Lakers suffered another tough loss to a playoff-caliber team, Kyle Kuzma scored 31 points to set an all-time Lakers rookie record on Christmas. He became the first rookie to score at least 30 points in a Christmas game since LeBron James (34 points) in 2003.
Additionally, Kuzma is the first Lakers rookie with three 30-point games since Magic Johnson produced four such efforts in 1979-80. The performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves was simply another in a string of impressive play.
But to the 22-year-old rookie, it’s simply a byproduct of meeting his expectations. “Of course it’s cool,” Kuzma said of the various milestones he’s reached.
“But at the same time, I expected me to do all this. I work hard and feel like I should be doing all of this. So, it’s not a surprising-type feel. But it’s definitely cool.”
During a three-game stretch last week, Kuzma became the first Lakers rookie since Jerry West in 1961 to score a minimum of 25 points in three consecutive games. He also has nine double-doubles, which are the most by a Lakers rookie since George Lynch had 10 in 1993-94.
Moreover, Kuzma’s five 20-and-10 games this season are the most by a Lakers rook since Magic Johnson had 10 in 1979-80. Sandwiched between Johnson and Kuzma is Hall-of-Famer James Worthy, who had three such games in 1982-83.
“For a rookie to continue to play at the level he’s playing at, against very good players, very good teams, playing big minutes, is impressive,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton said after the loss. “I know what he’s about, how he likes to compete.
“Kuzma’s competitive spirit is pretty awesome. For us, in the way we want to play, we want it to come organically to him so that we’re not just running plays for him every time. Get it in the flow of how we’re playing, how we’re pushing the ball. I think he’s done a really nice job of making strides in that area.”
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