The Los Angeles Lakers earned a 101-93 road win over the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center on Tuesday.
Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma scored 24 points to lead all scorers, including eight during a 13-2 L.A. run to close the first half and give his team a 52-50 lead going into the break.
Hornets guard Devonte' Graham scored 13 of his team-high 19 points in the fourth quarter to help Charlotte come close to erasing an 86-75 deficit.
Charlotte got as close as 92-91, but Lakers guard Alex Caruso hit a three-pointer and then knocked down two free throws after a defensive stop to put L.A. back up six with 28.1 seconds left.
Both teams played this game short-handed.
The Lakers, who had 10 players listed on the pregame injury report, continued to play without Anthony Davis (right calf strain) and LeBron James (right high-ankle sprain). They were also missing Markieff Morris (left ankle sprain).
The Hornets continued to take the court without LaMelo Ball (right wrist fracture), Gordon Hayward (right foot sprain), Malik Monk (right ankle sprain) and P.J. Washington (right ankle sprain). Terry Rozier sat with left knee tendinitis.
The up-and-down Lakers continued a win-loss pattern that has stretched for nine games and started March 28. They are now 34-21, good enough for fifth in the Western Conference.
The 27-26 Hornets fell to seventh in the Eastern Conference after losing their second straight game.
Lakers F Kyle Kuzma: 24 points, 4 rebounds
Lakers G Dennis Schroder: 19 points, 6 assists
Lakers G Alex Caruso: 13 points, 6 assists
Hornets G Devonte' Graham: 19 points, 6 assists
Hornets G Caleb Martin: 17 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists
Hornets F Jalen McDaniels: 16 points, 8 rebounds
Kuzma Early, Schroder Middle and Caruso Late Guide Lakers to Win
It was all Kuzma in the first three quarters, as he scored 14 points in the first half and had 20 points by the fourth.
Kuzma scored eight of his points during a 13-2 first-half-ending run that propelled the Lakers to a 52-50 lead after trailing 48-39. His final two points came on this hammer dunk:
Kuzma also hit four three-pointers through three quarters, including one with the shot clock winding down in the second and another to give the Lakers the lead back in the third:
Schroder guided the Lakers through a largely sluggish second half, though, scoring 12 of his points in the final two quarters.
L.A. only had 40 points during a 23-minute span in the second half, with the guard going 5-of-11 from the field. He also added four assists.
On the other end, the defense was largely able to keep Charlotte at bay thanks in part to a strong third quarter:
Mike Trudell @LakersReporter
LAL locked things down defensively for the final 5 minutes of the 3rd Q, allowing only 2 points to the Hornets, with @ACFresh21 leading the charge on that end.<br><br>Meanwhile, Matthews hit 4 straight FT’s, while McLemore and Schroder added late buckets to allow a 76-66 lead after 3.
However, Graham got hot from the field, quickly turning a comfortable 11-point edge into a slim one-point advantage.
Caruso took care of business, though, hitting a clutch three to put L.A. up four with under a minute left:
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel provided his postgame thoughts:
Mike Trudell @LakersReporter
Vogel was quite pleased to see Caruso hit the game-sealing shot: “He does so much dirty work for us, it’s ridiculous … everybody’s happy for him … but the biggest play of the game was the containment play on Graham (resulted in missed 3).”<br><br>Called Caruso the player of the game.
It's been a grind for the Lakers ever since they were forced to go without Davis and James, but a two-game win streak is certainly encouraging as they head back home after going 4-3 on a seven-game road trip.
Graham Nearly Wills Hornets to Win
Five of the Hornets' top six scorers did not play in this game. The lone exception was Graham, who was scuffling through an ice-cold shooting night going into the fourth quarter. He had just six points, four of which came on one play:
He also had zero points at halftime after missing all five of his shots.
The fourth quarter was a different story.
After the Hornets posted just 16 third-quarter points, Graham scored 13 of his own in the fourth. He cut the Lakers' deficit to one point on a pair of occasions. The first was a layup that slashed the L.A. edge to 89-88. After Schroder nailed a three-pointer, Graham hit one of his own.
Charlotte even had a chance to take the lead after a defensive stop, but a Graham turnover led to Caruso's three-pointer to help the Lakers begin to salt the game away.
The numbers are ugly for Graham, who finished just 7-of-19 overall and 3-of-13 from three-point range. Frankly, it was a rough offensive night for most players who took the court in Charlotte, with Brad Wanamaker notably going 1-of-11 and posting a minus-26 off the Hornets bench in particular.
However, on a night when the Hornets were missing five players who score 10 or more points per game, Graham's perseverance impressed down the stretch. His excellent work on both ends has helped this team all year, and he's notably sixth in NBA real plus-minus, per ESPN.
The Hornets may not have won, but a game that appeared to be a foregone conclusion earlier in the fourth was anything but in the final minute thanks in part to Graham.
Charlotte will host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET.
The Lakers will return home to welcome the Boston Celtics on Thursday at 10 p.m. ET. It will mark the first time fans will be allowed into the Staples Center since March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.