Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James has acknowledged that the team needs Kyle Kuzma to perform at a high level when the playoff starts as the three-time NBA champion thinks the 25-year-old is a key to their potential postseason success.
Kuzma, who has been averaging just less than 13 points per game this season, scored 25 points against the Denver Nuggets, including a game-winning three-pointer he hit with less than one second to go. The Lakers, who now have a 52-18 record, have clinched the No.
1 seed of the Western Conference and their focus is starting to shift toward being in their top shape for the upcoming postseason. James, who has had his struggles so far in the bubble, scored 29 points and dished out 12 assists to help the Lakers beat the Nuggets 124-121.
"In order for us to win a championship, he has to be our third-best player," James said of Kuzma, as quoted on ESPN. "And if I'm struggling or AD's struggling, he has to be our second-best player on any given night.
It's just, we can't win a championship if Kuz doesn't play well." Anthony Davis also had a strong performance as he dropped 27 points in the Nuggets to go along six rebounds and five assists. "We knew that wasn't their finishing lineup, but we wanted to work on things that can help us get better," Davis said of Denver's second unit that was on the floor at game's end.
"It kind of gave us -- it feels good to get a win again."
Kuzma full of confidence
Coach Frank Vogel surprised the Nuggets when he drew a play for Kuzma with less than five seconds to go as normally you'd expect the ball would be in the hands of either James or Davis.
"I think Jesus could be in front of me and I'll probably still shoot," Kuzma said after making the first go-ahead shot in the last five seconds of a game in his career. "Don't really matter to me. Got an open look.
Play we kind of ran in practice a few times prior to the restart. Coach had in faith, called my number and it paid off." Kuzma started the game against the Nuggets but he usually comes off the bench. "I mean, I'm starting on most teams in this league, and everyone knows it," Kuzma said. "But it just so happens that I play behind the best two players in the NBA."