Under head coach Frank Vogel the Los Angeles Lakers have prided themselves on defense and it came through in a major way when things were breaking down in the final seconds of their win over the Boston Celtics.
After a turnover from Anthony Davis gave the Celtics a chance to win, Alex Caruso and Dennis Schroder combined to ensure the Lakers’ victory. The Lakers shouldn’t have been in that situation to begin with as they held a seven-point lead with 1:40 remaining in the game, but the Celtics made a late run to give themselves a chance.
After giving up 107 points to a terrible offense in the Detroit Pistons in their last game, the Lakers were far more engaged in Boston.
“They made a strong defensive play and got a strip, and had an opportunity to run out and win the game but Alex flies out of nowhere and gets ahead of the play. Gets a deflection, slows down Brown, and then Dennis gets back into the play as well,” Vogel said after the win.
“That’s what we’ve been talking about all trip: improving our transition defense with that type of urgency. Obviously with the game on the line, those two guys getting back and in front of the ball really saved the game.”
There is no doubt that if Caruso hadn’t rushed back the way that he did, Jaylen Brown would have had an easy layup to give the Celtics the lead with just seconds remaining. Likewise, Schroder rushing back and challenging the the shot on Kemba Walker helped to ice the game as well.
And those were just the final plays on what was a great defensive quarter for the Lakers. After giving up 29 in the third to fall behind by seven heading into the final quarter, the Lakers held the Celtics to just 17 points in the fourth, with six of those coming in the final two minutes.
“I think we just had great defensive energy,” Vogel added. “We try to talk about playing Laker basketball, where we’re really flying around on the defensive end, getting stops without fouling and getting us out on the break.
“I think we had a couple possessions where we attacked before the defense was set and we put together some stops. This game was won the whole fourth quarter with our defense. It’s a tough place to win, so this was a good win for us.”
LeBron James praises Caruso for playing ‘championship basketball’
That final play from Caruso was just another example of what everyone on the Lakers talks about when it comes to backup guard. LeBron James recently praised Caruso, saying he plays ‘championship basketball’ and pointed to the number of things he brings to the Lakers.
“A.C. is whatever we need,” James said. “A.C. is kind of a Swiss Army knife, to be honest. If you need scissors, a wine opener, a fingernail clipper, a knife, he’s all of that in one. He can do it all.
“He can bring the ball up and play the point, he can play off the ball, he’s shooting deadeye from 3 this year and he defends at a high level. And he doesn’t make many mistakes. You always can live with that. You can live with a guy on the floor like that.”
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