On Friday night at Oracle Arena, the Golden State Warriors led by as many as 23 points and looked ready to run away with a feel-good blow out home victory to claim the NBA's best record and the team's 11th straight victory.
Though the Warriors would eventually claim a 113-106 victory, with Kevin Durant getting the on-court postgame television interview with a game-high 33 points, along with seven assists and seven rebounds, this game was anything but an easy practice session for the Warriors.
"Kuzma should have been a lottery pick," Durant said about Lakers' rookie Kyle Kuzma in that postgame ESPN interview. "Kuz is a problem. I like him."
The 22-year-old rookie out of the University of Utah scored 27 points and pulled down 14 rebounds in the loss. Friday's game brought Kuzma's streak of 20-point games to four, including a 38-point outburst in Houston on Wednesday.
"He's shown maturity," Lakers coach Luke Walton said about Kuzma's development in the Lakers' recent brutal schedule of games on Spectrum SportsNet after the game. "He's just a great competitor. And I think that's why he's had these great nights. Obviously, more minutes, more opportunities in that starting lineup and he's taken full advantage of that. Give him credit."
The rookie's ability to score helped get the Lakers get back into the game, as LA erased Golden State's advantage and even took a one-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Along with Kuzma, fellow rookie Lonzo Ball put forth his second highest point total as a professional. The 20-year-old former UCLA Bruin scored 24 points and made five of his six three-point attempts on the night, to go along with five assists and five rebounds. Over his past five games, Ball is shooting 47 percent from three-point land, as the rookie appears to have rebounded from his poor shooting start.
With three minutes remaining, the Lakers and Warriors were only separated by two points. A couple questionable calls, a hurried shot, and Durant playing for the Warriors resulted in the Lakers failing to claim a victory on Friday night.
This was the third close loss to the Warriors in the 2017-18 season. The previous two defeats had come in overtime at Staples Center. The final meeting between the two Pacific Division foes is set for Mar. 14, 2018 at Oracle Arena.
Given an extra three months of NBA experience, Ball and Kuzma could be even more of a problem for the Warriors the next time these two teams meet.
Kenavious Caldwell-Pope Back Starting
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who missed Wednesday's game due to a court order than requires him not to leave the state of California in connection with a March DUI while he was a member of the Detroit Pistons, returned to the starting lineup. On Spectrum SportsNet, Lakers coach Luke Walton said Caldwell-Pope clearly seemed to be affected by his legal status. The Lakers' starting shooting guard went 1-10 from three-point land and missed numerous open shots that he normally makes.
Julius Randle Gets Minutes
Julius Randle scored 21 points in 24 minutes after only playing eight minutes in Houston. Randle also had 10 rebounds, two steals, a block and an assist in Golden State. Randle even his two of his three 3-point attempts. He played a vital role in the Lakers' second-half comeback.