Kentavious Caldwell-Pope took charge on offense for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 110-104 loss to the Miami Heat amid the absence of the team’s leaders.
Kyle Kuzma joined LeBron James and Anthony Davis among the injured players ahead of the 2020 NBA Finals rematch, taking yet another scoring option away from L.A. But Caldwell-Pope stepped up and scored a season-high 28 points, shooting 6-for-11 from behind the 3-point line.
The 28-year-old guard proved again he left his mid-season slump behind him. Over the last five games, Caldwell-Pope has been shooting 51.9% from downtown, answering head coach Frank Vogel’s calls for more aggressiveness on the floor. “I think it’s helped my game a lot,” he said.
“Coach [Vogel] just put me in an opportunity to score the ball, and to get shots up and I’m just taking full advantage of it. Being aggressive, like he said, and still trying to stay aggressive every moment that I have the ball and just play, not worried about anything.”
After clarifying Caldwell-Pope’s role earlier this month, Vogel revealed he has set a score target for the guard to encourage him to play a bigger role on the offensive end. “I’m asking him to be super aggressive looking to score, I actually asked him to literally score 25 tonight and until that last three [against Miami], he had exactly 25 points and ended up with 28,” Vogel said.
“So we want him to be that aggressive, and again, this could be one of those silver lining things where we get more out of him offensively when those guys come back when he gets this kind of rhythm.”
Vogel then heaped praise on Caldwell-Pope for the way he dealt with his crisis earlier this season. “When a guy goes through struggles, you’re never sure exactly what is the cause of it, is it the minutes he’s getting or the groups that he’s out there with, some guys just go through mini-slumps or whatever,” he said.
“But he came out of the gates with a bang to start the season for us then went through a long stretch where he wasn’t shooting the ball real well for us but still maintained a 40% from three field goal percentage. So he’s a guy that I trust, there’s gonna be some ups and downs with him but he’s been big the last couple games, hopefully there’s some momentum going forward.”
Vogel calls Markieff Morris ‘Unsung Hero’
Vogel also showed appreciation for Markieff Morris’ contribution in recent weeks. The forward has been averaging double-digits since James injured his ankle while shining on the defensive end. “He’s been like the unsung hero of this stretch,” Vogel said ahead of the clash with Miami.
“I don’t think anybody is talking about Kieff’s contributions enough and it’s not just on the offensive side of the ball like he scored the ball tonight. He’s having to guard seemingly elite sort of three, four each night and is doing a great job with that while carrying some of the load offensively as well.”
Morris scored 12 points shooting 2-for-6 from behind the three-point line against the Heat before his ejection late in the fourth quarter.
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