In a game that immediately became a slugfest, the Los Angeles Lakers utilized their elite defense to quell the Charlotte Hornets, and guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was at the heart of it.
The first half saw some uncharacteristic defense from the Lakers be exploited by the Hornets, namely Jalen McDaniels and Caleb Martin, who managed to get whatever they wanted, whenever. Whether it was a pick-and-roll, a drive to the rim, cleaning up on an offensive rebound, those two dealt major damage to L.A.
However, the Lakers came out in the third quarter looking, and playing, like the stout defense observers have grown accustomed to seeing this season; they forced Charlotte into contested looks from the perimeter, help defense arrived on time to cause mistakes and second-chance points weren’t as prevalent.
Caldwell-Pope explained the difference between how the Lakers performed in the opening two quarters compared to the third, where they held Charlotte to just 16 points.
“That first half, there was a lot of one-on-one ball, was getting to the basket, was following them a lot, they were carving up our defense,” Caldwell-Pope said. “In that third quarter, we kind of buckled down, we got stops when we needed them and caused turnovers and got out in transition, what we’re best at. Kind of slowed them down a little bit.”
Late in the fourth quarter, the Lakers began to knock down some threes while the Hornets’ offense stalled, furthering the gap for L.A. But the situation quickly reversed, as Charlotte made a late run, rediscovering their first-quarter form.
Los Angeles turned to Dennis Schroder to score to maintain the cushion, but eventually, those options ran dry, and L.A. stalled. Head coach Frank Vogel, however, decided not to call a timeout; he let the players sort it out themselves.
Caldwell-Pope said it benefited the team to encounter a situation like that, and with L.A.’s previous experiences in close contests, they were equipped with the tools to come out on top.
“It’s good. Frank trusts us to just be poised, be patient when they make runs like that,” Caldwell-Pope said. “We’ve been in situations like that many times and I feel like we’ve gotten the best of most of them as far as just coming out with the win. I just feel like we just know what to do when they make runs late like that as far as our team, we’re so patient and we really just buckle down and actually focus on finishing games out.”
Caldwell-Pope uncertain on status of James, Davis
With the win over the Hornets, the Lakers concluded their taxing seven-game road trip with a record over .500. The record is more impressive considering L.A. didn’t have LeBron James and Anthony Davis in all of the games.
Caldwell-Pope said the Lakers did weather the storm, but the return of the superstar duo would be much-needed.
“We definitely want those guys back as soon as possible, I just don’t know the timetable,” Caldwell-Pope said. “But we still got what, 15 games left maybe, if I’m correct, and I don’t think they’ll be back anytime soon over the 15 games.
“But we still got another road trip we got to finish and we got to continue to just get wins. We’ve got to do it together and as much as possible, we got to try to get the dubs.”
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