The Los Angeles Lakers will be favored in most games thanks to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but the team’s bench improvement is what makes them the clear favorites to repeat as NBA champions.
The bench players last season were notorious for letting leads slip, but this season’s iteration is a different story as they have been able to protect and even extend those. Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso have been a large reason why as the pair has a knack for making key plays.
In Los Angeles’ recent win against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kuzma’s rebounding and Caruso’s individual defense on Colin Sexton helped give the team the boost they needed. “Big-time plays,” Anthony Davis said.
“That’s what Kuz does, he crashes the glass all the time. I think he got three on one possession and kicked it out to A.C. for a 3. And A.C. pressuring the ball, Collin drives to the basket and he gets a strip late in the game.
“All those plays are huge plays and momentum boosters for us. Especially when you’re kind of going back and forth with a team and were stagnant on 100 for a while. We didn’t score but our defense kind of kept us ahead, and those big offensive rebounds by Kuz. Two guys who don’t get highlighted enough but they do all the dirty work for us, for sure.”
Kuzma and Caruso have made strides since their rookie years and their play this season has given the Lakers the energy and spark they need on nights when the starters come out slow. They have been a steadying force and have looked comfortable in their second year playing alongside James and Davis.
Head coach Frank Vogel must seriously consider Kuzma and Caruso in his closing lineups going forward because they have proven to come up in key moments. The two have earned it and it will something to monitor going forward.
Frank Vogel echoes Davis’ praise of Lakers bench
Like Davis, Vogel highlighted Kuzma and Caruso for their efforts against Cleveland. “Kuz’s offensive rebounds, Caruso’s 1-on-1 defense,” Vogel said.
“I mean, he does some things defensively that you don’t really understand how he does it. He just does it. I thought it was a good team win. Trezz had really good minutes, Wes Matthews and ‘Kieff came in and had good minutes. The bench overall was really good. ‘Bron had 46, but this was definitely a team win.”
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