Alex Caruso’s late-game heroics in his team’s road win over the Boston Celtics over the weekend was the latest example of the 26-year-old, fourth-year pro’s selfless play.
With the Los Angeles Lakers clinging to a one-point lead, Anthony Davis had the ball stolen by guard Kimba Walker, who found Jaylen Brown sprinting down court for what looked to be the winning bucket.
However, Caruso in a full sprint managed to cut off and almost take the ball away from Brown, forcing him to pass back outside the key to a trailing Walker, who missed a jumper contested by Dennis Schröder as the buzzer sounded.
“Alex just flies from the corner out of nowhere and gets ahead of the play, gets a deflection and slows down Brown,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said afterwards. “And then Dennis raced back into the play as well.
“That’s what we’ve been talking about all trip, is improving our transition defense and playing with that type of urgency. And obviously, with the game on the line those two guys getting in front of the ball … really saved the game.”
The Lakers (15-6) look to end the team’s seven-game road trip on a positive note with 4:30 p.m. local time contest against sharpshooter Trae Young and Atlanta Hawks (10-9).
Caruso regularly executes game-changing plays like his relentless effort against Boston that do not necessarily show up in the stat sheet. He’s developed into a glue guy for the Lakers that does the little things -- from defending, making open 3-pointers, running the floor and at times running the team, playing off LeBron James well when both are in the game.
“He’s a smart player,” Davis said. “He’s not the highest paid or has all the accolades or the credentials. And a lot of people don’t notice him. But he plays the right way. He locks up defensively. He makes tough shots. He’s scrappy. … For him to be out there in the closing line up with us, we trust him. Coach (Vogel) trusts him. And he always comes up with big plays.”
Caruso leads the Lakers in 3-point percentage at 53 percent on the year and is averaging 5.4 points and 2.1 assists a contest in 17.9 minutes per game. He missed five games earlier this year due to the league’s health and safety protocols but has been part of L.A.’s closing lineup in two of the last last three games.
“We just want everybody to do their job,” Davis said. “You do your job, and that’s all we can ever ask of anyone on this team, from the coaching staff to the players. Everyone knows their role and is just asked to do their job. If your job is to run to the corners to create space and make shots, then that’s what we expect you to do. If your job is to defend, rebound, block shots – whatever -- than that’s what we expect you to do.”