Jordan Clarkson and Alex Caruso were stellar for the Los Angeles Lakers in their win over the New York Knicks, with Luke Walton tabbing his reserve backcourt to play 69 minutes, far more than the 28 that his starting guards, Josh Hart and Tyler Ennis, played in the win.
Still, Walton didn’t think it was likely that the two reserves would supplant his starters, even as Lonzo Ball continues to miss games with a knee injury.
“He could. I wouldn’t count on it, but he could,” Walton said of Clarkson’s odds of moving into the starting lineup, and he was similarly non-committal on Caruso’s chances.
“He’d be an option, yeah. I don’t think I’ll try it, but he is an option,” Walton said. “We’ll re-evaluate, watch some tape on Boston to at matchups — first units, second units — and see where we think we need certain type of help from in both those groups.”
Walton likes what the pair has given the Lakers’ bench in recent games, especially the two-game winning streak the two have fueled while pushing the pace for the reserve units. Clarkson has averaged 31 points, 8.5 assists, 6.5 rebounds over the Lakers’ last two wins, while Caruso has produced up seven points and six assists per game over the same stretch.
“(Caruso is) a very intelligent player. He’s tough, he competes on the defensive end and he really has done a nice job of playing with JC, because it allows JC to get off ball a little bit,” Walton explained.
“A lot of teams will blitz JC all over the court and try to pick him up full, so AC has done a really nice job of giving us a mix. The two of them have been a very nice combo together.”
Caruso and Clarkson working well together was something they said they would never have pictured back in their youth as the two Texas natives played against each other in high school and college.
“I used to hate playing against AC in college,” Clarkson said. “He’s one of them pesky dudes who gets into you defensively. He gets people involved. It’s good we’ve got him on our squad.”
Caruso feels the pairing works because while he and Clarkson may share roots, they’re completely different players.
“I do a lot of the little things, a lot of the hustle plays, and play hard defense. Not that JC doesn’t, but he’s more of an offensive guy. On that side I take a backseat to him. We complement each other really well,” Caruso said.
“We like playing with each other. We’re friends.”
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