Here is what you need to know before the Lakers’ MLK Day matchup against the Golden State Warriors.
1) Kuz is having himself a run
Everybody is waiting to see what’s next from Kyle Kuzma, who scorched his way to back-to-back 32-point games against Oklahoma City and Houston.
The sophomore has been electrifying during this stretch, hitting 59.0 percent of his shots, including a sizzling 52.4 percent from 3-point range (11-of-21).
Kuzma was particularly fiery to start Saturday’s game at the Rockets. He went off for 20 points in just the first quarter, becoming the first Laker to score that many in the opening period since Kobe Bryant eight years ago.
Kyle Kuzma with an unreal, 20-point first quarter. Sizzling from deep with all kinds of 3s.
• Spots up for a 30-footer
• Sneaks down the baseline to the corner
• Pick-and-pop with Lonzo
• Iso pull-up from 28 feet out pic.twitter.com/v6yYwEqtYY
— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) January 20, 2019
2) Options are thin at the point
The Lakers eventually fell to Houston in overtime despite rolling through the first half, leading by as many as 21 points.
But the game shifted once Lonzo Ball — who had 11 assists in 22 minutes — went down with a sprained left ankle. X-rays returned negative for a fracture, yet Ball’s status moving forward is still in question.
The situation is compounded by injuries to fellow point guard Rajon Rondo and offensive focal point LeBron James. Both have been cleared to return to practice, but coach Luke Walton expressed doubt that either would play on Monday.
If none of those options are available for L.A., it will likely lean on Brandon Ingram, who has experience running point when injuries hit. Ingram has averaged 7.3 assists over his last three games, while Lance Stephenson and Svi Mykhailiuk could also get minutes running the show.
The Lakers are also likely to call up two-way PG Alex Caruso, who has averaged 14.1 points and 5.4 assists in the G League this year.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 20, 2019
3) The NBA’s most dominant team just got better
Apparently four All-Stars weren’t enough for Golden State, which went out and got one more over the season.
One of the league’s most dominant big men, DeMarcus Cousins, is back from an Achilles tear, making the Warriors the first team in 42 years with a lineup comprised completely of All-Stars from the previous season.
And it’s not like they were struggling without Cousins. Golden State has won seven straight games in dominant fashion, averaging 131 points with an 18-point average margin of victory. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant have both ascended into the top five of the league’s scoring leaderboard.
It will be tough for the Lakers to replicate their Christmas Day blowout of the Warriors. That 21-point victory was led by a huge first half from LeBron, and (once James was injured) a strong second half from Rondo.
Keep an eye on whether they again try to force the ball away from Durant, and if the other Warriors handle business if they do.
The Lakers often sent multiple defenders at Kevin Durant, who scored 21 points on 5-of-13 shooting.
Forcing Jerebko and McKinnie to finish these possessions is obviously ideal compared to letting KD do it. pic.twitter.com/zyERDqQsLQ
— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) January 16, 2019
Warriors: Damian Jones (left pectoral surgery) is out.
Tip-Off: 7:30 p.m. PT
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Unis: Gold Icon
Location: STAPLES Center — Los Angeles, California
Source: Los Angeles Lakers