On a night when D'Angelo Russell's return to LA dominated the pregame discussion, it was the two pieces that the Los Angeles Lakers got back in the trade for Russell that stole the show and helped carry the Lakers to a 124-112 victory at Staples Center.
Los Angeles Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma, who the Lakers selected with the no. 27 pick that previously belonged to the Brooklyn Nets, scored 17 points and pulled down five rebounds before the halftime intermission in the forward's first start for the Lakers.
Kuzma eventually finished with 21 points on 8-11 shooting and 13 rebounds in the victory.
With Larry Nance Jr. fracturing his hand a night earlier in Portland and set to miss roughly 4-6 weeks, Kuzma got the call to start from his coach, and the 22-year-old forward looked more than up for the challenge. So impressive was his performance that one can imagine the Flint, Michigan native becoming the long-term starter for the purple and gold in the front court.
Along with Kuzma, the Lakers also acquired Brook Lopez in the trade that sent Russell and center Timofey Mozgov to Brooklyn, and Lopez took the revenge game narrative and ran with it, murdering his former team from beyond the arc. Lopez made five of his first six shots from distance, and followed up on his 27-point night in Portland a night earlier with 34 points and 10 rebounds against the Nets on Friday night.
"Some of those threes, I was yelling at my coaches, 'Why is he shooting that?'" Lakers coach Luke Walton said about Lopez, who finished 6-9 from distance, after the game. "He made them, so we left him in."
Russell finished with 17 points on 8-24 shooting from the field to go along with seven rebounds and seven assists, but the former Laker simply could not find his range from distance. Russell missed seven of his eight shots from beyond the arc.
Allen Crabbe scored 25 points off the visitors' bench and helped Brooklyn rally in the fourth quarter, but Brandon Ingram seemed to step up late and help put the game to bed. Like his fellow front court starters, Ingram recorded a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds and also shot better than 50 percent from the field.
The Lakers' new starting front line of Kuzma, Ingram and Lopez combined for 73 points on 59.6 percent shooting from the field and 9-14, 64.3 percent from beyond the three-point line.
"I thought the front court did a good job of being aggressive on both ends of the court," Walton said about the new-look front line.
The coach added, "There was a good chemistry out there, surprisingly, with the lineup change happening and getting back at 2 in the morning."
Notes: Rookie Lonzo Ball followed up on his scoreless night with six points, on 3-15 shooting, seven assists, five rebounds, two steals and had a game-high plus-22 points. Ball looked to be forcing his shot early in the contest, but the point guard still managed to take care of the ball and committed no turnovers in 29 minutes on the court on the second night of a back-to-back.