With their stud point guard sidelined by injury, the Lakers relied on their bigs to come up big.
Power forwards Julius Randle and Kyle Kuzma, as well as center Brook Lopez, did just that, leading the purple and gold to their first preseason win: 75-69 over Sacramento.
Lopez — who had missed the first three exhibitions due to back spasms — set the tone early in his Lakers debut, scoring 10 of his 12 points in the first quarter.
A reliable 20-points-per-night scorer for most of his career, Lopez wasted little time showing off his post-up game while also splashing back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the first.
“He spaces the floor, gets rebounds, and when our offense is stagnant we know we can throw it down to him and he can go get a bucket down there,” Kuzma said of Lopez.
While the Lakers jumped out to a 16-4 lead in Las Vegas, the offense felt the absence of Lonzo Ball in the second and third quarters.
The second-overall pick missed his second straight game to an ankle sprain and may not play in either of the preseason’s final two exhibitions.
With Ball out, the Lakers held on to just a one-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, and the Kings tied it at 64 with five minutes left.
That’s when Kuzma took over.
He attacked the basket on the next possession, receiving free throws and making both for the go-ahead scores. Then he assisted on a 3-pointer by Alex Caruso and a layup from Randle.
He added his own layup and a game-capping dunk, meaning he scored or assisted on all of the Lakers’ last five scoring plays.
Kuzma finished the night with 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists, as head coach Luke Walton was unsurprised by his ability to take on the challenge of leading Los Angeles at the end.
“He literally shows up to play no matter what it is,” Walton said. “Whether it’s three-on-three, a shooting contest … he’s always competing.”
While Kuzma finished off the game, Randle was the Lakers’ leader for the majority of the contest.
Coming off the bench for the first time this preseason, he packaged together a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds while also pitching in three assists and three steals that proved vital in a tight contest.
He was also active defensively — a huge need for the Lakers, who surrendered 77 points in the first half of their last preseason tilt against Denver.
While the Kings’ offense isn’t expected to be as potent as the Nuggets’, it was still encouraging to see the Lakers hold their opponent below that 77-point mark across the entire game.
“I just tried to bring energy,” Randle said. “Just doing my job. Just tried to make the game easy.”
Before the game, Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson addressed the crowd and led a moment of silence for victims of last Sunday’s shooting in Las Vegas. … Game proceeds were donated to victims of the tragedy, their families and first responders. … Zach Randolph led the Kings with 16 points. … Sacramento was held to a 31.3 percent clip from the field.