In the midst of their four-game homestand, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers managed to pull out another tightly contested matchup as they squeaked by the Sacramento Kings.
Through 12 games, it is clear that one of the few weaknesses on this iteration of the Lakers is their inability to hit open shots and the Kings did a good job of exploiting that as they were more than willing to let Los Angeles shoot outside versus getting into the paint. However, James did his best to ensure his team would come out on top as he poured in 29 points to go along with 11 assists in a team-high 39 minutes of action.
Even though James had it going on the offensive end, Sacramento was still able to claw their way back into the game and keep it close. But surprisingly enough, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was able to come up with some clutch baskets in the fourth quarter that helped the team ultimately win the game.
In his walkoff interview, James credited Caldwell-Pope for his efforts on both ends.
“Well, we gotta have a next man up attitude and next man up was KCP tonight. Hell of a job he had in that second half especially in that fourth quarter shooting the ball with extreme confidence, making shots around the rim, couple layups, and defensively just being in tune on Buddy Hield late in that game. So, game ball to KCP.”
Caldwell-Pope, who was inserted into the starting lineup in place of the injured Avery Bradley, was struggling mightily through the first 11 games of the 2019-20 NBA season as he had yet to really find much rhythm shooting the ball. The lack of success from the field seemed to affect his confidence as he began to pass up open threes and began settling for tougher midrange shots.
However, Caldwell-Pope was excellent in the fourth as he did not hesitate when given an open look and even converted on a couple of difficult drives en route to 12 fourth-quarter points. It was easily his best outing this season given the circumstances and it should be a game he can look to build some momentum on.
Bradley is set to be evaluated in 1-to-2 weeks, so Caldwell-Pope figures to see more rotational minutes until he returns.
His ability to defend opposing guards and hit open threes will be crucial if the Lakers hope to continue their three-game win streak.