For the first time since 2012, the Los Angeles Lakers will advance to the Western Conference semifinals after beating the Portland Trail Blazers 131-122 on Saturday and completing a gentleman’s sweep. Here are three takeaways from their slow-cooked Game 5 win.
Alex Caruso isn’t a true point guard, and that’s okay
Going into the season’s restart, Alex Caruso had an opportunity to prove that he was capable of being a lead guard for the Lakers in the absence of Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo, the latter of whom suffered a fractured right thumb upon arriving to Orlando.
While Caruso has been given that opportunity in spite of the late-season additions of J.R. Smith and Dion Waiters, he hasn’t exactly shined in that role and Saturday night was another example of that. In the first quarter of Game 5, Caruso turned the ball over three times. Those three turnovers were Caruso’s only three of the game, but they all came when Caruso was trying to make plays off-the-dribble and when he was the primary ball-handler.
As much as the Lakers would benefit from him being that type of player, he just isn’t, and that’s okay. Caruso still ended the game as a positive in the box score because he’s a positive on the defensive end. Not only did he record a team-high four steals, but he also the led the team in deflections (5) and was second in contested shots (10) behind Anthony Davis (12). He’s good.
The next step for Caruso is getting his 3-ball to fall. For the series, Caruso shot 20% from 3-point range despite the fact 13 of his 15 attempts came when he was “open” or “wide open.” He needs to be better, especially if the Houston Rockets are the team they’re going to see in the second round.
There is no “third star”
The Lakers don’t have a third star. Kyle Kuzma has shown flashes, but those flashes are still just flashes. Meanwhile, Danny Green is still struggling to rediscover the 3-point stroke he had with the Toronto Raptors last season. So, unless someone breaks out in the second round, the Lakers’ “third star” will be someone different every game, like it has been all season.
The good news is that the supporting cast is hitting their shots at a high enough clip to where it’s possible for someone outside of LeBron James and Anthony Davis to make a difference. The same couldn’t be said about the Lakers’ supporting cast when they first arrived to Orlando.
Besides, who needs a needs a third star when ...
LeBron James and Anthony Davis aren’t from this world
LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined for 79 points on 28-37 (75.6%) shooting from the field. They’re the first Lakers duo to score more than 35 points a piece since Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal in 2002.
Davis led the Lakers with 43 points on 14-18 shooting from the field, including 4-6 from behind the arc. The last player to score 40 points in a playoff game for the Lakers was Kobe Bryant in 2012.
While Davis got most of his work done in the paint, he was hitting shots from all over the floor. Heres what Davis’ shot chart looked like in Game 5:
If Davis continues to shoot the ball as comfortably as he’s been in the last three games, it’s hard to imagine any team having an answer for him. Add LeBron James to that mix, and it’s hard to imagine any team beating the Lakers.