The Los Angeles Lakers got off to yet another slow start, struggled behind the arc and at the free throw line, and suffered a loss to a Cleveland Cavaliers team that was mired in a 12-game losing streak.
The struggles have become all too familiar and routine for the Lakers since LeBron James and Rajon Rondo were injured in a blowout of the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day. The Lakers are an abysmal 3-7 without the two veterans.
The stretch includes Kyle Kuzma missing 2.5 games because of a lower back contusion. While he torched the Detroit Pistons for a career-high 41 points, Kuzma hasn’t consistently played to his standards since returning.
He finished with 29 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists, leading the Lakers in scoring in their 101-95 loss to the Cavs. Though, Kuzma also had a team-high 4 turnovers and was scoreless in the first quarter.
“As a team we need to be more engaged in the sense of having an effort, and that starts with me,” he said after the Lakers suffered their worst loss of the season. “I played like crap, not bringing the energy, and that’s what we need to do as a team in order to compete and play in all these games.
“[Cleveland] comes in here with one of the worst records, no disrespect to the Cavs, but they’re still an NBA team, and for us we can’t take anything lightly. We’re all professionals and you can lose on any given night if you don’t bring the effort, and that’s what happened tonight.”
With the Lakers prone to sluggish starts of late, head coach Luke Walton suggested a lineup change will come Tuesday. Brandon Ingram wants the team to play with the mindset of being the aggressor, and Lonzo Ball called on the Lakers to have more energy.
“We just need to play hard, plain and simple,” Kuzma offered as his solution. “We need to play hard on the defensive and offensive end. Cut hard, get through screens hard, we’ve got to do everything hard. Whether shots are falling or not, we can’t let anything affect our effort, and for us that’s everything right now.”
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