The final road trip of the season for the Lakers began with a 130-102 win against the Anthony-Davis-less New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday. And with Rajon Rondo getting stitches in his forehead during the third quarter, the night belonged to Alex Caruso.
Caruso continued to show how reliable he can be when he’s on the court, dropping a career-high 23 points on 7-11 shooting off the bench to help the Lakers make up for the absence of LeBron James (and basically half of the rest of their roster).
He wasn’t alone in stepping up. With most of the Lakers’ headliners sitting out today’s game, a squad led by JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo boosted L.A. to their 34th win of the season. McGee and Rondo were a dynamic-duo during the game, with each getting a double-double in the stat sheet agains the Pelicans, with Rondo finishing with 24 points and 12 assists, while McGee scored 23 points and grabbed 16 rebounds.
McGee and Rondo weren’t the only Lakers to help the team with their veteran reliability. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope also scored in double-digits (19 points).
The Lakers front office will have to think twice about keeping these veterans around, despite their production, because they need to know that this increased production is just a coincidence with free agency quickly approaching, and not simply caused by the increased motivation that comes with a player trying to earn their next payday.
Caruso’s 23 points were tied for the second most of any Laker against New Orleans, even though he played less than 30 minutes. Caruso’s +24 was the third-best plus-minus for the Lakers, behind Reggie Bullock’s +34 and Mike Muscala’s +25 (the latter of which shows how much noise can be in that stat).