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Kyle Kuzma sparks Lakers’ comeback win against Pacers

  • Lakers forward LeBron James, center, drives to the basket between Pacers guard Jeremy Lamb, left, and guard Aaron Holiday (3) during the first half of Friday’s game at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker, right, goes up for a dunk as Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 12, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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  • Indiana Pacers guard T.J. McConnell (9) passes next to Los Angeles Lakers center Damian Jones during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 12, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers center Montrezl Harrell (15) grabs a rebound against the Indiana Pacers during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 12, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers guard Wesley Matthews (9) shoots over Indiana Pacers guard Aaron Holiday (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 12, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma, right, dribbles past Indiana Pacers guard Jeremy Lamb during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 12, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers guard Dennis Schroeder, left, drives against Indiana Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 12, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Indiana Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis dunks against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 12, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Indiana Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis dunks against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 12, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James directs the offense during the first half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers on Friday, March 12, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers center Montrezl Harrell, right, blocks a shot from Indiana Pacers center Goga Bitadze during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 12, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers center Damian Jones (30) drives to the basket against the Indiana Pacers during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 12, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) shoots over Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) and guard Malcolm Brogdon, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 12, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James reacts after scoring against the Indiana Pacers during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 12, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Indiana Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis, top, scores over Los Angeles Lakers forward Markieff Morris (88) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 12, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Indiana Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon, left, shoots over Los Angeles Lakers forward Markieff Morris during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 12, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles off of a Montrezl Harrell #15 screen, in front of Domantas Sabonis #11 and Edmond Sumner #5 of the Indiana Pacers, during the second quarter at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: Alex Caruso #4 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives to the basket on Edmond Sumner #5 of the Indiana Pacers during the first quarter at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers walk back during the second quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: Damian Jones #30 of the Los Angeles Lakers fouls Domantas Sabonis #11 of the Indiana Pacers during the second quarter at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: Dennis Schroder #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts as he is fouled by Justin Holiday #8 of the Indiana Pacers during the second quarter at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: Dennis Schroder #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts after his foul during the second quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts as he is fouled by Myles Turner #33 of the Indiana Pacers during the second quarter at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers passes between Myles Turner #33 and Justin Holiday #8 of the Indiana Pacers during the second quarter at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: Damian Jones #30 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts as he misses a dunk in front of Doug McDermott #20 and Myles Turner #33 of the Indiana Pacers during the first quarter at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: Kyle Kuzma #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives to the basket on Justin Holiday #8 of the Indiana Pacers during the first quarter at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers attempts a shot in front of Malcolm Brogdon #7 and Myles Turner #33 of the Indiana Pacers during the first quarter at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: Damian Jones #30 of the Los Angeles Lakers attempts a layup in front of Domantas Sabonis #11 and Myles Turner #33 of the Indiana Pacers during the first quarter at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: Alex Caruso #4 of the Los Angeles Lakers attempts a steal on Malcolm Brogdon #7 of the Indiana Pacers during the first quarter at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: Domantas Sabonis #11 of the Indiana Pacers reacts as he is guarded by Markieff Morris #88 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first quarter at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: Edmond Sumner #5 of the Indiana Pacers reacts to his foul during the first quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

  • Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma shoots over Pacers guard Aaron Holiday during the second half of Friday’s game at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Indiana Pacers guard Jeremy Lamb (26) is defended by Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 12, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma, center, shoots between Indiana Pacers guard Jeremy Lamb (26) and Domantas Sabonis (11) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 12, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma (0) shoots against the Indiana Pacers during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 12, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: Edmond Sumner #5 of the Indiana Pacers attempts a shot in front of Montrezl Harrell #15 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the third quarter at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: Jeremy Lamb #26 of the Indiana Pacers reacts as he is fouled by Kyle Kuzma #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers in front of Myles Turner #33 during the third quarter at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: Myles Turner #33 of the Indiana Pacers reacts going for a rebound between Wesley Matthews #9 and Montrezl Harrell #15 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the third quarter at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Myles Turner #33 of the Indiana Pacers reach for a rebound during the third quarter at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: Nate Bjorkgren
    talks with Justin Holiday #8 during a 105-100 Lakers win at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: Myles Turner #33 of the Indiana Pacers dunks in front of Damian Jones #30 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the third quarter at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: Domantas Sabonis #11 of the Indiana Pacers reacts as he is fouled by LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers during a 105-100 Lakers win at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: Domantas Sabonis #11 of the Indiana Pacers reacts after he is fouled during a 105-100 Los Angeles Lakers win at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: Kyle Kuzma #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope #1 celebrate during a 105-100 Lakers win over the Indiana Pacers at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates his basket and Indiana Pacers foul with Dennis Schroder #17 and LeBron James #23 during the third quarter at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 12: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers smiles during a 105-100 Lakers win over the Indiana Pacers at Staples Center on March 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE.

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Kyle Kuzma has said it many times, this year more convincingly than years past: He’ll be anything the Lakers need him to be to win.

The conviction of words show in actions, and the galloping end-to-end hustle of the fourth-year forward – swiping at rebounds on one end and dropping in buckets on the other – was exactly what the short-handed Lakers ordered on Friday night at Staples Center.

Kuzma finished with a flourish, scoring 15 of his 24 points during a fourth quarter that was yet another nail-biter for the Lakers (25-13) who had to sweat out the last minute before winning their first game back from the All-Star break, 105-100, over the Indiana Pacers to move back into third place in the Western Conference.

Improbably, the Lakers won with a defensive stroke after struggling to make stops in the first three quarters: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope aggressively swept up an inbounds pass with 9.9 seconds left and made two free throws to clinch the victory

In the most memorable stretch of the fourth quarter, Kuzma scored 10 of the Lakers’ 12 points as they went from a basket behind to a five-point lead. Even LeBron James (18 points, 10 assists) knew well enough to hunt for Kuzma’s hot hand, lasering passes in for back-to-back 3-pointers as the Lakers took control of the game for the first time all evening.

It was telling that Kuzma not only led in scoring but also with 13 rebounds, picking up for absent big men Anthony Davis and Marc Gasol. While the Lakers struggled at time to navigate around rim-protecting center Myles Turner, they pounced when he sat in the fourth for a decisive 15-point swing.

Just 25 minutes before tip-off, Dennis Schröder and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope came out of the Lakers’ tunnel sprinting. The fleet-footed guards dashed the length of the court, and Schröder even took a few ambitious steps up the side of the digital board to the side of the visiting stanchion.

The energy seemed to portend a good omen for the Lakers, who hoped to come out of the All-Star break with a similar burst. But behind closed doors in Thursday’s practice, Coach Frank Vogel saw something else: a lot of short shots.

“It’s going to be a build-up again like you saw in the beginning of the year,” Vogel said, “where guys have to get their legs back under them.”

Those words carried more weight than the opening frames of Friday’s game against Indiana, when the Lakers had energy but lacked polish.

Even if the Lakers do get their legs under them, their growing injury report doesn’t make the coming path any easier. The night began with the news that Anthony Davis (right calf strain) will miss at least two more weeks, while Gasol and Kostas Antetokounmpo have no public return date from the league’s COVID-19 protocols. The latest hit happened in the second quarter, when reserve guard Alex Caruso’s head slammed against the court and he missed the second half.

Indiana’s plan of attack was not subtle. Armed with two 7-footers in the starting lineup, the Pacers attacked the middle where the Lakers are substantially undermanned without Davis or Gasol. The Pacers racked up 36 points in the paint in the first half, spurred by an aggressive Malcolm Brogdon whose 18 first-quarter points were the most he’s scored in any quarter in his NBA career.

Davis’ absence was keenly felt as the Lakers attacked the rim: Kuzma, Damian Jones, and Talen Horton-Tucker all blew dunk attempts in the first half alone. The All-Star break didn’t do much for their 3-point shooting (7 for 22) which remains in a rut.

More to come on this story.

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