Playing next to Los Angeles Lakers stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis can be difficult for certain players as they demand the ball on nearly every possession, leaving fewer touches for their teammates.
While that might be an issue for most players who are used to playing with the ball in their hands, it does not affect someone like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who benefits from the extra attention defenses five James and Davis.
Caldwell-Pope has proven to be one of the Lakers’ most valuable players during their current playoff run with his defensive effort and more importantly his outside shooting.
Los Angeles often runs two-big lineups that require perimeter spacing, and Caldwell-Pope has been able to provide that when he is on the floor. He is shooting nearly 42% from beyond the arc on five attempts per game during the postseason, a massive boost to a team that often times finds itself with less space in their half court sets.
“Just being ready to shoot and staying in a rhythm,” Caldwell-Pope said of his success. “Trying not to worry about how many shots I’m getting or how the flow of the game is going. Just being out there and playing my game.
“Playing defense and running the floor. Just knock down threes when the ball comes to me.”
In Game 1 against the Miami Heat, Caldwell-Pope drained two consecutive threes in the first quarter that cut into the 23-10 hole the Lakers found themselves in. From there, Los Angeles took off running and quickly turned the game into a blowout.
“We were down 15, and KCP kind of saved us in that first quarter with the two threes and then we kind of got going on both ends of the floor,” Davis said.
All postseason long, teams have tried their best to take away the painted away because that is where the Lakers are most dangerous, but having a shooter like Caldwell-Pope helps keep defenses honest. James and Davis are able to dominate games when they get into the paint and having a reliable spot-up shooter makes a massive difference when every possession counts.
Head coach Frank Vogel previously highlighted Caldwell-Pope as an important piece for the Lakers, and the guard is making good on that praise so far.
Vogel on role players stepping up in big moments
The Lakers will only go as far as James and Davis take them, but the role players have done their part this postseason. Despite lacking a definitive third star, it seems there is always at least one person who is able to step up and Vogel believes that is not by accident.
“I think from early on in the season, we had the mindset that we knew Anthony and LeBron were going to get double-teamed, especially late in games,” explained Vogel.
“The idea, the identity to have a mindset to have it could be a different guy every night to be the quote, unquote, third scorer or the guy that makes the big fly or the big play has prepared everybody for that moment.
“The identity, the idea that we have two superstars, we have to become a team first, I think brings the importance of everybody playing their role, and guys have really stepped up.”
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