Kuzma’s offensive explosion helps Lakers end Rockets’ 14-game winning streak

Agence France-Presse
Kuzma’s offensive explosion helps Lakers end Rockets’ 14-game winning streak


The Lakers overcome the 51-point outburst from James Harden to score the upset win

LOS ANGELES, USA – Kyle Kuzma led the offensive charge as the Los Angeles Lakers snapped the red-hot Houston Rockets’ 14-game winning streak with a 122-116 upset victory on Wednesday, December 20 (Thursday Manila time).

Kuzma scored a NBA career-high 38 points as the Lakers dominated the Rockets early then held on through a mid-game Houston rally to claim the win and end their own three-game losing skid.

“I scored 30 in the summer league,” Kuzma said. “This is a better team but the same mentality. I’ve got the same mentality every time I step on the court, play my hardest and just be locked in.”  

The loss spoiled a 51-point scoring performance by Rockets star James Harden, who also added 9 assists. 

The Rockets dropped to 25-5 on the season and also lost for the first time with guard Chris Paul in their lineup. 

Paul departed early in the fourth quarter with a sore left leg and did not return after scoring eight points in 25 minutes.  

The Lakers improved to 11-18 on the season with Kuzma scoring 24 of his 38 points in the first half on nine-of-nine shooting.

Los Angeles shot 47.1 percent overall and, after entering the game dead last in the NBA in three-point percentage, nailed 15 of 35 attempts from beyond the arc to keep the Rockets in check. 

The Lakers played without starters Brook Lopez (ankle) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (personal reasons).

Kuzma got plenty of offensive help as a half dozen Lakers finished in double-digit scoring, including reserve forward Corey Brewer who had a season-high 21 points. 

Brewer was shipped by the Rockets to Los Angeles at the trading deadline last February. 

Brewer sparked the decisive run with a nifty layup at the 7:04 mark of the fourth quarter to break a 100-100 tie. 

The Lakers stretched that lead to 10 points before the Rockets could muster a reply that fell short.

Rookie guard Lonzo Ball added 16 points and 9 rebounds while Larry Nance and Brandon Ingram scored 13 apiece for the Lakers. 

Elsewhere, LaMarcus Aldridge had 22 points and 8 rebounds, and Pau Gasol collected 20 points, 17 rebounds and 5 assists as the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 93-91 at Moda Center.

Spurs on a roll

The Spurs shot 51.3 percent from the field and outrebounded Portland 53-38 en route to their 11th win in 14 outings. 

Damian Lillard scored 17 points for the Trail Blazers, who lost for the fifth straight time at home. 

The Blazers had a chance to win in the final moments, but CJ McCollum’s three-point attempt bounced off the rim as time expired. 

Aldridge and Gasol each scored 16 points as San Antonio, shooting 58.1 percent from the field, raced to a 54-46 halftime lead.

In Denver, Jimmy Butler scored 25 points, including 11 in the final 4:41, and the Minnesota Timberwolves rallied to beat Denver 112-104. 

Karl-Anthony Towns also scored 25 and grabbed 10 rebounds, Jamal Crawford had 20 points and seven assists, and Jeff Teague tallied 16 points and eight assists for Minnesota. 

In Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as the Thunder routed the Utah Jazz 107-79. The Thunder led by as much as 33 points at one point, a season high for them. –

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