The Los Angeles Lakers’ performance inside the bubble before the playoffs did not garner a lot of confidence in their ability to make a championship run.
The Lakers effectively locked up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference with their victory over the Clippers in the first game that impacted the standings, but struggles against other teams even when the starters played had some concerned.
Of course, once the playoffs began the Lakers were on another level as LeBron James and Anthony Davis set the tone for the rest of the team. The team also got major contributions from role players, with the likes of Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso and others all playing their part to perfection.
But even Caruso wasn’t completely sure the Lakers would be able to flip the switch once the playoffs started. In an appearance on “The Old Man and the Three” podcast with JJ Redick and Tommy Alter, Caruso admitted to some anxiety about whether the Lakers would turn it on in the playoffs:
“After we won the first game against the Clippers in the bubble, I think the human nature of, ‘Alright, we locked up the No. 1 seed, we’re going to rest some guys, we’re going to make sure we’re all healthy going in.’ But for me, I’m a play every game, play every minute the same way kind of guy. For me, on the inside, I was having some anxiety. I was just like, ‘Come on guys. Can we get it going?’ I remember having that conversation with myself. I was like, ‘I hope we can turn it on.’”
But Caruso also knew who he had on his team and never to doubt them, even as the Lakers experienced some hiccups in their playoff run:
“Then I was like, ‘I’m not going to bet against the No. 23 on my team to be ready to go.’ There was a little bit — on my part, at least — a little hesitation like, ‘Are we going to be ready to play?’ I think you even saw that when we came out a little flat against the Blazers in our first game. … Same thing with Houston. We had a couple days off as the other teams finished their series. … It was an interesting dynamic. Just to go back and forth with myself like, ‘I know we’re a good team and we can get this done, but when are we going to start the engine?’ Game by game we kept getting better and better and better throughout the playoffs.”
As Caruso noted, the Lakers kept improving and once they got going no one was going to stop them. Even inside the team there were some concerns after their early bubble performances, but it wasn’t enough to deter them from their ultimate goal.
Caruso: Lakers always believed they could win title
Ultimately the Lakers’ belief in themselves throughout the entire season was greater than the slight concerns once play inside the bubble began. Caruso added the Lakers always felt they could win the NBA championship, especially once the team went on a run in the beginning of the season.
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