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Kyle Kuzma says Lakers needs ‘to be more engaged’

Kyle Kuzma, Lakers

LOS ANGELES – Heading into Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Cleveland Cavaliers had lost 12 straight games while sporting one of the NBA’s worst records at 8-35. Despite their losing streak and being at the beginning of the post-LeBron James era, the Cavs came to play on Sunday handing the LeBron-less Lakers their 21st loss of the 2018-19 campaign.

The Cavaliers were in control for the majority of the contest at the Staples Center with Luke Walton’s squad having no answer for the team’s starters which all finished in double-digit scoring. Cedi Osman led the way with a team-high 20 points and got help from Rodney Hood, Tristan Thompson, Alec Burks, and rookie point guard, Collin Sexton.

As for the Lakers, Kyle Kuzma led the charge once again with a game-high 29 points. The second-year forward did most of the scoring in the fourth quarter where he poured in 18 points to get the team within striking distance. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, it just wasn’t enough to get the best of the Cavs who went on to win, 101-95.

Following the team’s second straight loss, Kuzma talked about the need for him and his teammates to be more engaged and an emphasis on effort.

“As a team, we need to be more engaged in the sense of having an effort, and that starts with me,” Kuzma said. “I played like crap today, not bringing that energy, and that’s what we need to do as a team in order to compete and play in all these games.

“A team comes in here with one of the worst records, no disrespect to the Cavs, but they’re still an NBA team, and for us, we can’t take anything lightly, especially in this league. Because we’re all professionals and you can lose on any given night if you don’t bring the effort, and that’s what happened tonight.”

Walton, who is considering changing the starting lineup, wants that effort needs to be from the beginning which it wasn’t tonight as Cleveland lead by as much as 15 points in the first quarter.

“I really thought we’d come out with a little better energy,” Walton said. “By the end of the games, we’re doing a nice job of stabilizing our defense and getting the stops we need, but we can’t just keep giving up 30 points to start the games. We’ll take a look at that, possibly make a change before Tuesday.”

Brandon Ingram also believes the Lakers need to hit their opponents in the mouth early with a different mentality in the first half.

“We just have to have a hit-first mentality, be ready for every team’s best when they come to the Staples Center and just continue to be even more connected.”

With LeBron’s return date still uncertain, the Lakers will have to continue to try to put it together without their leader. Kuzma and company will face the Chicago Bulls at home on Tuesday before going a two-game road trip to take on two tough opponents in the Oklahoma City Thunder (Jan. 17) and Houston Rockets (Jan. 19).