Sure, James was his usual brilliant self. But Kuzma’s performance was a big deal for the rolling Lakers.
James had 30 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for his third consecutive triple-double, and Los Angeles rallied to beat the Chicago Bulls 118-112 on Tuesday night for its sixth straight victory.
Kuzma scored 11 of his 15 points in the final period during his third game after missing the start of the season with a right ankle injury. The 24-year-old guard got hurt while playing for USA Basketball this past summer.
“I’m getting there,” Kuzma said. “It’s a process, I know. It’s all about being patient right now because I haven’t really had much basketball time since August.”
Kuzma averaged 18.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last season. The Lakers are hoping he can provide a viable third option alongside the leading duo of James and Davis.
“Kuz got into a rhythm, and that’s what he’s capable of,” James said.
Los Angeles trailed by 19 before outscoring Chicago 38-19 in the fourth during the finale of a three-game trip. Kuzma began the quarter with seven straight points, part of a 16-0 run that lifted the Lakers to a 96-93 lead with 8:12 left.
James was on the bench for most of the big spurt, and Davis watched the entire run from the sideline.
“A.D. was in foul trouble. Bron was exhausted,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “Both of those guys needed to stay on the bench and other guys needed to step up, and they did.”
Chicago lost for the fifth time in six games. Zach LaVine scored 26 points, and Wendell Carter Jr. had 11 points and 11 rebounds in his third straight double-double. Coby White and Otto Porter Jr. each scored 18 points.
“This one hurts,” LaVine said. “We were beating them up until the fourth quarter. We’re showing we can play with these teams. We know we’re talented. We’ve had 10-, 12-, 16-point leads on a lot of teams, but we’re losing games. It’s frustrating.”
The Bulls used a 16-2 run to open a 60-42 lead with 2:49 left in the first half. Carter’s two foul shots made it 63-44 with 2:10 to go.
“We’ve got to learn to finish,” coach Jim Boylen said. “They finished and we didn’t.”
James helped close it out after he checked in with 8:37 remaining. He found Davis for an alley-oop jam that made it 114-101 with 2:04 left.
Davis finished with 15 points and seven rebounds in his first game in his native Chicago since he was acquired in a trade with New Orleans.