Last night, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets for their 41st win going into the All-Star break. The final score was 120-116 as the Lakers eventually prevailed in overtime in a battle between the first and second seeds of the Western Conference. The Lakers won behind big performances from LeBron James (32 points and 14 assists) and Anthony Davis (33 points and 10 rebounds), but they were also helped by Frank Vogel’s “secret weapon”, Alex Caruso.
Vogel brought up that term in regards to Caruso after the game, as he was also asked by Dave McMenamin/ESPN about his role possibly expanding following the All-Star break (h/t Christian Rivas/Silver Screen & Roll).
“There’s a possibility for [his role] expanding. But right now he’s my secret weapon; I break him out when I need him. He’s certainly earned a rotational spot and he’s in the rotation, but like I said, if we need him to grow into a bigger role, he delivers.”
"It's a different guy every night and it's a testament to our culture, of guys pushing each other and pulling for each other."
Frank Vogel praises Caruso & Dwight for their energy off the bench. pic.twitter.com/HQpHrxTBev
— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) February 13, 2020
In the game there was only two players who had +10 or more in regards to their plus/minus statistic for the game. One was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, while the other was Alex Caruso. However, KCP’s was +10, while Caruso’s was an astounding +23. Although its a single game plus/minus statistic which could be misleading, it’s saying something when he has a plus/minus over 20 in a game where the Lakers only won by four points.
Caruso actually only played five minutes in the Lakers big win over the Phoenix Suns on Monday, playing 22 minutes in last night’s game. McMenamin proposed the question, as many have wondered if Caruso should have much more of a role, even if someone like Rajon Rondo may get more minutes just because of his supposed advantage over Caruso in the ball-handling department.
Caruso’s strengths over Rondo were evident all night against the Nuggets, as he played incredible defense and just made the right play over-and-over, including setting a pick to create a wide-open Anthony Davis in OT, promptly nailing a clutch three.
Frank Vogel has varied his minutes for Caruso all season, with them usually being the same if not less than Rondo’s minutes all season. We’ll see if Caruso continues to get playing time like tonight once the Lakers come back from the All-Star break.