Down three starters, the Los Angeles Lakers faced long odds to get a Christmas night victory at STAPLES Center, but they managed to keep the game competitive and fans in their seats for the majority of the contest thanks to another stellar performance from rookie Kyle Kuzma, who became the first rookie since LeBron James to score 30 points on Christmas.
Kyle Kuzma is the first Lakers rookie with three 30-point games since Magic Johnson (four in 1979-80).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 26, 2017
Averaging 24.5 points per game over his past six games, Kuzma finished the night with a game high 31 points, along with three rebounds and four assists in the 121-104 defeat to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
"No, not really," Kuzma said when asked about whether being the the same company as James carried meaning.
After being pressed, Kuzma added, "Of course its cool, but at the same time I expect to do all of this, I work hard, I feel like I should be doing all of this, so its not like a surprising type feel, but it’s definitely cool to reach milestones and what not"
Per Lakers PR, Kuzma's 31-point outing made him the fourth highest scoring rookie on the December holiday behind only James (34 points), Bill Cartwright (33 points) and Patrick Ewing (32 points).
Karl-Anthony Towns, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler led the visitors offensively, with all three of the Timberwolves' starts scored over 20 points in the win. Butler and Gibson each scored 23 points, while Towns scored 21 points in the win.
The Lakers could not slow down Minnesota offensively, as the Timberwovles finished with four different players scoring 19 or more points. Kuzma was the only Laker to top that modest mark to show the dropoff for the home team.
In addition, the Timberwovles shot 58.3 percent from the field, which was notably higher than the Lakers' 43.5 percent.
With Lonzo Ball out, Jordan Clarkson got the start at point guard and managed 17 points, seven assists and six rebounds in the defeat, while rookie Josh Hart contribed 12 points, six rebounds and two assists deputizing for Brandon Ingram.
"We're not getting blown out by nobody [sic]," Clarkson said he thought the Lakers were in a better spot than the previous year's team, which also had an 11-21 record after 32 games. "I think the score tonight wasn't indicitive of how the game flowed, but I feel like we're right there competing every night."
Off the bench, Julius Randle scored 16 points and pulled down seven rebounds in only 19 minutes on the court, as the backup forward/center continues to struggle for regular minutes with Lakers coach Luke Walton juggling big bodies like Larry Nance Jr. and Andrew Bogut.
When eyeing the talent on the floor for Minnesota versus the talent available for LA, it was a Christmas miracle that the Lakers kept the game close for three quarters and even managed to take a one-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
The Timberwolves promptly spit off a 13-0 run and outscored the Lakers 38-24 in the fourth quarter to finish with the lopsided 17-point victory, which was also the visitors' largest lead of the night.
In the end, the Lakers lost, and this turned out to be the sixth loss in the past seven games for the purple and gold. Next, the Lakers host the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.