Since playing in Las Vegas Summer League before his rookie season, Kyle Kuzma has openly embraced being put in clutch situations. His mindset and confidence has drawn similarities to that of Kobe Bryant, which has endeared Kuzma to the Los Angeles Lakers fanbase.
Wednesday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves provided Kuzma with another opportunity to deliver in the clutch, as he was on the court down the stretch of a back-and-forth game. He made a 3-pointer that put the Lakers up by seven and later split a pair of free throws.
“I want the ball. I’ve always been that way. When the bright lights are on is when I feel the most comfortable,” Kuzma said. “Except for that free throw that rimmed out, but I think that’s just what [my mindset it].”
Kuzma was one of four Lakers to score at least 20 points in the 114-110 victory. He made four 3-pointers, which was second to only Josh Hart for a team-high.
“They were really good at what need them to be good at. I thought both of them did a nice job of, for the most part taking good shots, making the extra pass when they had that opportunity, taking on the defensive challenge,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton said of Hart and Kuzma.
“We asked Kuz to guard one of the best bigs in the game. I thought their competitive spirit was great, they both made winning plays and obviously we needed all of that from both of them to win.”
Although the Lakers were unsuccessful in preventing the Timberwolves from knocking down a barrage of 3-pointers — their 20 makes set a franchise record — Kuzma was part of a collective effort that made it difficult for Karl-Anthony Towns, as Walton noted.
“Just lock in to my assignment, knowing he wanted to get to the left shoulder and his right hook a lot. Just tried to take that away as much as possible,” Kuzma said of his defensive approach against the versatile center.
The Lakers stuck with the same starting lineup for a fifth consecutive game. Despite some of the challenges and up and down play the group has experienced, Kuzma believes the Lakers as a whole are benefitting from the consistency.
“The second unit is doing great as well,” he said. “It’s all about continuing to develop that chemistry. It’s only been 11 games.”