LeBron James-Less Lakers Beat Donovan Mitchell, Jazz as Alex Caruso Scores 18

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistApril 8, 2019

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 07: Alex Caruso #4 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives against Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz during the first half at Staples Center on April 07, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)
Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images

Even without many recognizable names on the roster, the Los Angeles Lakers still find ways to win games.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope took over late in Sunday's 113-109 win over the Utah Jazz, the second straight win over a playoff-bound opponent. The guard scored 18 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter, plus an assist on the game-sealing basket by JaVale McGee:


KCP ⬆️ JaVale ⬇️ #LakeShow https://t.co/gimmEKma8p

Alex Caruso added 18 points and 11 assists at the Staples Center to help the Lakers improve to 37-44 with one game remaining.

The Jazz saw their seven-game win streak come to an end despite 19 points from Donovan Mitchell, but the 49-31 squad is still in good shape to nab the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference.


Alex Caruso Should Have Future Spot in Lakers Rotation

If there is one positive to take away from the final few weeks of the Lakers season, it's the play of Caruso.

With LeBron James and all of the notable young players unavailable, Caruso has taken on a bigger role and run with it. He showcased his skill set against one of the best defenses in the NBA on Sunday night, finishing with 18 points and 11 assists.

This comes after totaling 32 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in Friday's win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Dark Knight @AndyGlockner

Can’t believe it took a season-ending injury to LeBron for the Lakers to turn the team over to Alex Caruso.

Although it's a joke that Caruso would be the team's star or go-to option, he has shown he can be a reliable player on the court.

His playmaking was especially notable against the Jazz, setting a new career high in assists while showcasing impressive vision:

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

.@ACFresh21 with a nice dish to KCP! #LakeShow (📺: @SpectrumSN) https://t.co/TImzVjTmdG

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

No look, no problem 👀 #LakeShow (📺: @SpectrumSN & NBA TV) https://t.co/C7S0OwzGBx

Meanwhile, he consistently got to the rim and scored without having his best shooting day.

The 25-year-old entered the day shooting 53.3 percent from three-point range, so his outside shot is not really a question mark. However, these other skills showed that he can be more than just a gunner.

Considering the Lakers should be desperate for scoring after ranking 25th in offensive efficiency this year, per Basketball Reference, an unselfish contributor like Caruso would be exactly what they need.

Tony Jones @Tjonesonthenba

The lakers would be smart to keep Alex Caruso

The guard is currently on a two-way contract, but the team should offer him a multiyear deal before he is able to find a new location.

According to Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype, a one-year minimum deal would only cost about $897,000, while even as a restricted free agent his cap hold would be only about $1.6 million.

With a minimal cost, Caruso should be part of the Lakers' plans in 2019-20.


What's Next?

Los Angeles will close the regular season against another team headed to the playoffs when it hosts the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday. Utah will face the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday in the team's last home game of the year.


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