One of the best 3-and-D players (three-point shooter and defensive specialists) in the NBA, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope acknowledged Devin Booker got the best of him in the Phoenix Suns’ nine-point victory over his team in Game 1.
Booker finished with a game-high 34 points and eight assists in Phoenix’s opening-series win.
Caldwell-Pope said he looks forward for a chance to redeem himself in Game 2 on Tuesday at 7 p.m. local time in the desert, with the Suns allowing a full-capacity crowd for the first time this season.
“He’s a scorer and he can do it in all types of ways,” Caldwell-Pope said about Booker. “So, I just try and have my focus more on the defensive end, and then when I’m open shoot the ball and knock down shots. It’s what I’ve been doing my whole career. And being in this organization for four years that’s been my job -- 3-and-D. I take that very seriously. It’s going to be tough, but I lean my hat on my defense, so it’s going to be good.”
The Lakers held Booker to 21 points a game during the regular season. However, with Chris Paul limited because of a shoulder injury, Booker was more aggressive looking for his shot on offense.
“He had a good game, and we all have to be better,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said. “On the ball and it’s a five-man assignment. We have coverages in place. KCP (Caldwell-Pope) is as good as anybody sticking with a guy like Devin, but with elite scorers you have to bring help. And they use a lot of creative ways to get him involved.
“So, it’s a five-man job. KCP did a good job. He (Booker) played 45 minutes, so obviously his numbers are going to be more inflated than you would expect for a regular-season game. But we still have to go a better job of limiting his efficiency.”
Along with playing better defensively, Caldwell-Pope and the rest of L.A.’s role players have to contribute more offensively when LeBron James and Anthony Davis are being double defensively by the opposing team.
“We just have to be ready to shoot, knowing that they’re going to show a lot of attention to AD (Davis) and LeBron,” Caldwell-Pope said. “So, on the back end we have to be ready to shoot. And just being prepared. Get in the gym when we have time to get in the gym and get your shots up. Just being ready, knowing the ball is going to come when they double.”
Finally, Caldwell-Pope said his team needs to get it going early. The Lakers have fell behind the last two games against Golden State in the play-in game and over the weekend in a loss to the Suns.
“We have to come out with a sense of urgency,” Caldwell-Pope said. “We knew they were going to come out strong. It was their first playoff series in a long time, and they were going to be hungry for it. And I feel like we weren’t ready for what they had for us to start the game and played from behind the whole time. We never could get over that hump.
“I just believe in the guys that we have. And I feel like we can get the job done by slowing them down and playing our basketball.”