The Los Angeles Lakers entered their contest against the Phoenix Suns with the best record in the Western Conference.
This team has been as good as advertised all offseason long and their early season success was a product of elite play from their dynamic duo LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
With all the roster turnover and hype surrounding their new additions, there was one player in particular that seemed to get lost in the mix.
24-year-old Kyle Kuzma was the only young piece from the Lakers core that survived the roster overhaul to get A.D. this offseason. He suffered a foot injury during his time with Team USA at the FIBA World Cup this summer and that carried into training camp and the preseason with Los Angeles.
After missing the first four games of the season, working toward getting back to full strength, Kuzma finally returned to action at the start of November. Head coach Frank Vogel eased him into the Lakers rotation to start, allowing him to get his conditioning back to game speed, as Kuzma played less than 20 minutes in his first two games of action.
He had notched 15 points in a win over the Chicago Bulls and a loss to the Toronto Raptors, but he had yet to have that "I'm back" performance as the Lakers third star.
With Los Angeles in a battle late in the fourth quarter against a scrappy Suns group, Kuzma finally stepped up to make his impact felt on this team. He had things going early on, scoring 13 points in the first quarter, but fizzled out as the game went on. In the fourth quarter, the Utah product scored eight clutch points, including two massive, back-breaking 3-pointers to put Phoenix down.
Kyle Kuzma (23 PTS) answers with back-to-back threes to extend the @Lakers lead late! #LakeShow- NBA (@NBA) November 13, 2019
Watch Live: https://t.co/3bTQPOmwYk pic.twitter.com/RrNgVc2391
Kuzma finished with 23 points shooting 9-for-16 from the field and 3-for-6 from beyond the arc. Not only was it his season-high in scoring, but it was also his most efficient shooting night through six games. It takes time to get your wind and legs back under you after missing time, nevermind the first couple games of the season. It looks like Kuzma is starting to hit his stride with six games under his belt now.
The Lakers also got a double-double of 24 points and 12 rebounds from Davis and 19 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds from James. The trio's performance overcame 20-point outings from Ricky Rubio (21 points, 10 assists), Devin Booker (21 points) and Aron Baynes (20 points).
The Lakers remain atop the West at 8-2 while the Suns fall to 6-4.