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As the season winds down, the Los Angeles Lakers are trying to give their prized rookies as much playing time as possible.
Point guard Lonzo Ball and forward Kyle Kuzma have played heavy minutes in March, with Kuzma continuing to make the stronger impression. During the month, Ball is averaging 9.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 7.8 assists and 2.3 steals in 37.4 minutes per game but is shooting just 31.9 percent from the field.
Kuzma is averaging 17.9 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 37.5 minutes while shooting 46.4 percent.
The rookie duo will continue to see plenty of action when the Lakers finish off a road trip against the Detroit Pistons on Monday night.
Kuzma was the star on Saturday when the Lakers snapped a four-game losing streak. He posted 25 points, 10 rebounds and three assists in a 100-93 victory. Kuzma, the 27th overall selection last June, was acquired in a draft night trade with Brooklyn.
“I’m very competitive,” Kuzma told the Los Angeles Times. “Those first three quarters I really didn’t shoot the ball well. Just told myself I wasn’t going to lose this game and I just really tried to lock in.”
Ball, the second overall pick, nearly notched a triple-double with 12 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists. He reached double digits in points for the first time in seven games despite going 1 of 6 beyond the arc. He’s shooting 14.8 percent (8 of 54) on 3-point attempts in the last eight games.
The Lakers (32-40) will likely be without two of their top players on Monday. Isaiah Thomas has already been ruled out because of a sore right hip.
“I tell all our players to be honest about how you’re feeling and (what) you need, especially the guys that have been around the league for a little bit,” Lakers coach Luke Walton told the Times. “He said it’s been sore and he thinks a couple days off will help.”
Small forward Brandon Ingram has missed the last 11 games because of a groin injury and is doubtful.
The Pistons (33-40) have taken advantage of some soft spots in their schedule to win three of their last four games. Those victories have come against lottery-bound Sacramento, Phoenix and Chicago.
They pummeled the Bulls on Saturday for the second time this month. Detroit made 13 3-pointers in the first half and rolled to a 117-95 win.
Shooting guard Luke Kennard, the No. 12 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, has averaged 11.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists during the past nine games, including a 13-point, three-rebound, six-assist performance against Chicago.
Point guard Reggie Jackson enjoyed his best outing since recovering from a severe ankle sprain that cost him 37 games. Jackson scored 15 points in 22 minutes.
“I was actually happier in the second half to see him go to the basket because he wasn’t doing that in the first two games (since returning),” Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy said. “First two games he only had one of his 20 shots in the restricted area and then (Saturday) he went to the basket three or four times in the second half. That was a real good thing for me to see.”
Jackson is gaining more confidence in the ankle each game
“I got a little more burst after I attacked the basket once,” he said. “I got a few opportunities to try again and it felt good.”
The Lakers won the first meeting 113-93 on Oct. 31 in Los Angeles.