(Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)
Alex Caruso Erupts for 32 Points, 10 Boards in Victory Over Clippers
As the Lakers returned to their locker room trailing by six at intermission, Alex Caruso had a request for air-guitar celebration aficionado Lance Stephenson.
“At halftime walking into the tunnel, I told Lance to tune up the guitar, because I felt it was a little off,” Caruso said. “Obviously we were tuned up in the second half, making some shots.”
Caruso and co. rocked STAPLES Center like they were on a world tour. He ignited for 32 points and 10 rebounds — both career-highs — and was clutch down the stretch in the Lakers’ 122-117 win over the LA Clippers.
And his teammates kept the show going all night, punctuating Caruso’s five 3-pointers with a symphony of air guitars.
AC and the Sunshine Band pic.twitter.com/qk7FgycV25— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) April 6, 2019
Caruso was electric throughout, hitting 10-of-19 from the field, 5-of-7 from deep and 7-of-7 on free throws. While shooting was his key weakness as a rookie last season, it has been his greatest strength this year.
He has made a whopping 53.3 percent on 3-pointers on a healthy sample size (24-of-45). Caruso — who shot just 30.2 percent from deep last year — took advantage of the Clippers giving him too much space by bombarding from deep.
“He’s got a lot more confidence in his shot right now,” coach Luke Walton said. “I think him knocking that down is giving him the freedom to get to the lane, which is good. He’s got good size, good strength. He’s got a nice feel for the game, and keeps defenses honest because he’s a skilled passer, too.
“I think knocking that shot down consistently is really allowing him to take advantage of this opportunity. But that comes from hard work. You hang around our practice facility at all — he’s always in there, always working.”
Yet when it came down to crunch time, Caruso took the ball into the paint to ice the game.
Up by four with 45 seconds left, the Lakers had Caruso set a screen, confusing the defense which wasn’t prepared for a point guard to do that. In the chaos he found a driving lane and took it in for a tough layup.
When the Clippers responded with a triple, he again took the game into his own hands. The 25-year-old isolated on his defender, beat him off the dribble and tossed the ball high off the glass and into the bucket to ensure victory.
Caruso was brilliant for the Lakers down the stretch, scoring 13 points in the fourth quarter on 5-of-5 shooting with three treys.
Rajon Rondo was similarly clutch, with 11 fourth-quarter points and three triples of his own — but the veteran himself asserted that it was Caruso’s night.
Said Rondo: “We got AC the ball and we got out the way.”
Rondo (15 points, 12 assists) and JaVale McGee (18 points, 10 rebounds) notched double-doubles. … Kentavious Caldwell-Pope reached 23 points but on 25 shots. … Recent call-up Jemerrio Jones had five points and 10 rebounds (four offensive). … Danilo Gallinari led the Clippers with 27 points, but Lou Williams was held to 4-of-12 shooting.
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