The Los Angeles Lakers faced quite a challenge in Game 4. They needed to respond to their underwhelming performance in Game 3, which resulted in a shocking 115-104 upset loss and made the series 2-1 instead of them having a commanding three-zip lead.
It was obvious that they underestimated the Miami Heat after two consecutive easy victories, and though most analysts and fans took it lightly, another defeat would’ve dealt enormous pressure.
Fortunately, the Lake Show were better-prepared for Game 4 and they pulled out a 102-96 win. The usual suspects, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, led the charge, but a good start and finish from one of the unlikeliest sources was arguably just as huge.
While others were looking at Rajon Rondo or Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope suddenly came out of nowhere to be the ‘third man’ to help the Purple and Gold survive.
Caldwell-Pope scored 10 points in the first quarter and went 4-for-6 from the field – it’s usually his stat line for an entire game. He then added five more towards the last three minutes of the game as he hit a transition three that pushed the lead to five, and another quick drive just a minute later to extend it to seven.
It’s good and it’s sure to bolster his and his teammates’ confidence on his shot moving forward. In fact, James gave him props in the postgame interviews:
That can be really great or really bad for the Lakers. There’s no in-between. We are not talking about Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson here. Caldwell-Pope is an unrelenting streaky shooter who probably best-illustrates basketball’s infamous phrase “Live by the three, die by three.”
Either he’s shooting career-highs 38.5% from three and 46.7% overall, which he did in the regular season, or he’s going on an ugly 8-for-29 shooting stretch, which he did from Games 1 to 3. He was actually fortunate to make those two aforementioned buckets in the fourth quarter as he went scoreless in the second and third periods, and also bricked a pair of threes early in the frame.
The key for the Lakers is to not let this be a three-point shooting contest, or at least not be reliant that those shots will continue to fall. They don’t have the shooting firepower of the Heat, so James and Davis simply have to stay aggressive.
That said, they’ve been tough to beat when they’ve taken control of a series, and so they’re be going into Game 5 as deserved favorites. It wouldn’t be surprising if someone else on their deep bench found a big game. Alex Caruso, in particular, seems to be due one.