LeBron James and Anthony Davis have been incredible during the 2020 NBA Playoffs. However, the Los Angeles Lakers supporting cast has been somewhat of a surprise, exceeding all expectations after the regular season.
Part of the group leading the way off the bench is Alex Caruso, who continues to add depth to his game and his journey in the league. From G League standout to fan favorite to legitimate role player, Caruso has undoubtedly proven he belongs on a playoff roster.
While his statistics never jump off the page, Caruso’s energetic performance — especially on defense — has been crucial in the first two rounds of the playoffs. His best performance came in Game 4 against the Houston Rockets, where he had 16 points, three rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal.
While his style of play has stayed the same from the regular season to now, Caruso believes his aggression is the difference. “I think I’m just being more aggressive. I think that’s the only thing that’s really changed,” Caruso said.
“I’m not shying away from showing my competitiveness, and just kind of playing how I know how to play. There were spurts of that this year; I remember early in the year in Chicago, maybe in the middle of the year when we were in a bit of a lull. I’m just being more aggressive.”
Caruso also credited his rise to Rajon Rondo missing the Lakers’ first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers, as he felt a greater responsibility to make plays. “Maybe Rondo being out helped me get to that point,” he said.
“It put a little more responsibility on my shoulders and helped pushed myself to a point where I was just out there playing rather than thinking about what I should be doing. Since I’ve been doing that, and we added Rondo back, it’s been great for us and me.
“I think just continuing to be the competitive and aggressive self that I am, and just limit my mistakes.”
Even though Rondo normally takes some minutes away from Caruso, L.A. has found great success with both of them on the floor at the same time. Among five-man lineups that have shared at least 25 minutes together during the postseason, the combination of Rondo, Caruso, James, Markieff Morris and Kyle Kuzma ranks No. 3 with a 37.8 net rating.
James has confidence in Caruso in big moments
In a crucial moment in the Lakers’ Game 4 victory against the Rockets, James gave up the ball to Caruso who proceeded to drill the game-sealing 3-pointer.
“I don’t even know if you can explain it,” James said of the trust he has in Caruso. “The fact that we have so much confidence in A.C., a guy that played a lot of his time in the G League pretty much before this year.
“That’s just who he is. To have him in the crunch time, I didn’t have one-second guess if I was going to hit him in that corner when I saw he had a little bit of space. He knows I have the confidence in him to knock it down.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!