With the Los Angeles Lakers understandably fatigued at the end of a seven-game, 12-day road trip, the team needed a spark to get them through the final game and come out with a win. And when they needed it most, Alex Caruso came through clutch on both ends of the floor.
Caruso finished with 13 points and six assists as the Lakers left Charlotte with a 101-93 victory over the Hornets. The win improved the Lakers record to 34-21, just 0.5 games behind the Denver Nuggets for fourth in the Western Conference. It also gave the Lakers a 4-3 record on this grueling road trip without their two stars.
The fan-favorite shot 3-of-5 from 3-point range including an absolute dagger to put the Lakers ahead by four with 45.2 seconds remaining. He would then play excellent defense on Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham to force the miss, grab the rebound and knock down a pair of free throws to essentially ice the game.
Caruso was a game-high +21 in his 25 minutes and the Lakers needed every bit of it on a night where they struggled offensively. Only two other Lakers finished in double-figures, led by Kyle Kuzma, who fought through a rough start to pour in 24 points to go along with four rebounds.
Dennis Schroder also had a great night with 19 points, six assists and four rebounds. Arguably most importantly, the point guard had just one turnover.
The Lakers as a whole did a much better job of taking care of the ball on this night, finishing with just 11 total turnovers and nobody having more than two. The Lakers seemed to have things in hand with a 10-point lead headed to the fourth quarter and maintained that lead for much of the fourth before the Hornets made their run.
L.A. also got an unexpected boost from Alfonzo McKinnie, who scored eight points, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers. And while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored just nine points, he also added three rebounds, three assists and two blocks, looking far more confident overall and more like the player the Lakers saw at the beginning of the season.
It was not the prettiest game overall for either side as the Lakers shot just 41.5% and Charlotte wasn’t much better at 43.4%. What helped the Lakers was their 3-point shooting as they knocked down 16-of-44 from deep while Charlotte shot just 9-of-35. The Lakers also shot 17-of-18 from the free-throw line.
The game did provide a pair of outstanding slam dunks that will surely be seen on some year-end highlight reels. Hornets wing Caleb Martin threw down a two-handed flush over Ben McLemore in the second quarter. But Kuzma would end that same quarter with an emphatic one-handed slam over Hornets rim protector Bismack Biyombo that brought the entire Lakers bench to their feet.
Next up for Lakers
The Lakers will finally return home to Staples Center and will be greeted by fans in the building for the first time this year as they host the rival Boston Celtics. Following that is a pair of two-game sets against the Utah Jazz and the Dallas Mavericks.
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