The Los Angeles Lakers welcomed back Rajon Rondo in Phoenix against one of this season’s most surprising teams, and the game played out just about exactly how one would think given how each team’s seasons have gone. The Lakers wound up winning thanks to some late-game heroics from Kyle Kuzma, 123-115.
Rondo had been some version of questionable for about a month before finally debuting on Tuesday night in Phoenix and, for the most part, he offered about what the Lakers were hoping to get. The Lakers’ offense (especially in minutes with LeBron James on the bench) looked better, though the defense was considerably worse.
To be clear, I’m not putting that solely on Rondo. Just an observation. Chill. Though it is fair to wonder what adding upwards of 50 minutes per game of him and Kyle Kuzma might do to the defense overall. The Lakers have some room for the defense to slide, so long as the offense gets considerably better. If that’s how this plays out, their additions would easily be a net-positive.
Speaking of Kuzma, this was easily his best game from start to finish of the season. He hit two monster threes to help seal the win late in the fourth even as I looked like a complete moron for questioning his being in the game. He finished with 23 points and was a +9 on the night, something you haven’t been able to say much thus far this year.
The story of the night was Phoenix’s 3-point shooting pitted against the Lakers’ physicality. L.A. finished with 70 points in the paint as Phoenix hit six more total threes. This is the math equation the Lakers will often find themselves fighting against, as modern basketball calls for three-point shooting ability and so much of the Lakers’ rotation is inconsistent at-best from that range.
L.A. will look to build on this win right away Wednesday night, as they take on Golden State back at home. Given how banged up Davis has been and the extra bumps and bruises he got Tuesday night — leaving the game to get his rib taped at one point — it’ll be interesting to see if he plays on the second night of a back-to-back. Wednesday’s game tips off at 7:00 p.m. from Staples Center.