The Los Angeles Lakers returned to action on Friday with a comeback win over the Indiana Pacers.
After opening struggles by the Lakers trio of guards — Dennis Schroder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Wesley Matthews — they were able to come together with the help of Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell to win their first game after the All-Star break.
Caldwell-Pope was far from perfect for the night. In 28 minutes he scored just seven points on 2-of-6 shooting and was a team-low minus-10. Despite that, he still came up big when the moment demanded and was one of the five that head coach Frank Vogel trusted the most when the game was on the line in the final seconds.
The Lakers guard felt that the All-Star break was well-needed, and now believes he has his legs under him again. “I feel great, my legs feel great,” Caldwell-Pope said. “The break was well-needed for me. Yeah, I feel great.
“Just wanted to come out and show great energy, start the game out with great energy and do what I do best, play great defense, get out in transition and run the floor. I’m just glad my legs are underneath me and I’m healthy.”
Caldwell-Pope’s biggest play came with just 10 seconds left on the clock. With the Pacers down by three and in possession of the ball after a timeout, Caldwell-Pope switched onto All-Star Domantas Sabonis, came up with a steal and then sunk the game-sealing free throws.
“Before they took the ball out, our gameplan was to switch everything before the ball was in and then switch everything if the ball did get it, so that was pretty much the gameplan. I switched out on Sabonis, I started opening to try to get the steal so I tried to get in front of him and get the ball pretty much.”
As the Lakers continue to play games without several key rotation pieces, players like Caldwell-Pope will need to continue coming up big. If he can get out of the extended shooting slump he’s been in, it would go a long way towards keeping the Lakers afloat before they get healthy for the postseason.
Caruso being evaluated for concussion, not currently in protocol
One thing that may play a huge part in what Caldwell-Pope’s role is for the next few games is the status of Alex Caruso. The defensive-minded guard went down early in the game on Friday and was ruled out with a head contusion.
Vogel gave an update on him after the game. “Alex [Caruso] was obviously not able to return. He is not in concussion protocol but is still being evaluated for a concussion but is not in protocol currently.”
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