LeBron praises Alex Caruso after play-in performance: “He carried us in the first half”

Alex Caruso led the Lakers in scoring at halftime (Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Lakers.com)

The Los Angeles Lakers go as far as their superstars go. They proved this over the course of a playoff run in which LeBron James and Anthony Davis traded off huge performances on a dominant path to win the Finals. At their peaks, they are two top-five players in the league and they can lead this team over anyone.

That’s why it was so concerning on Wednesday night when that duo, as well as point guard Dennis Schröder, struggled so heavily, especially in the first half. The three key players combined for just 13 points on four of 28 shooting from the field in the first half as the Warriors surged to a 13-point lead.

That lead could have been even more drastic if not for huge performances from several of the Lakers’ key role players. Alex Caruso was especially crucial, scoring 12 of his 14 points, including two triples, in the first half to keep the Lakers in the game.

LeBron was cognizant of that fact after the game, praising Caruso’s overall attention to detail and maintaining that they were carried offensively by the fan favorite guard.

It wasn’t just the scoring output for Caruso, however. He was crucial defensively in limiting opportunities for Stephen Curry, who still managed an explosive 37-point performance. But in the ten (full) possessions that Caruso defended the former MVP, according to NBA tracking data, Curry scored just five points on two of four shooting and the Warriors scored 13 total points. No one is ever going to fully stop a player of Curry’s caliber, but Caruso did as well as anyone could expect, helping to force two of his six turnovers (one while guarding him one-on-one and one by double teaming him alongside Kyle Kuzma) and generally making him work harder to get shots up. That’s why it was Caruso getting the assignment late in the game over the likes of Schröder and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Offensively, Caruso showed his always stellar chemistry with LeBron James with two backdoor cuts, one ending in an assist to Anthony Davis and the other ending in a layup for himself, showcasing that partnership. As always, Caruso was routinely in the right spot at the right time, seemingly reading James’ mind.

Caruso is one of the players on this Lakers roster that has been there before and performed at the highest level. It’s no surprise then that when the Lakers needed him the most, he once again delivered, often over the expected performers.

As Caruso himself said after the game, he’s “just trying to win another championship, man.”

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