Although the 76ers ultimately won thanks to an incredibly difficult shot from Tobias Harris, there were a lot of positives to take away from that run — chief among them, the tireless effort that Alex Caruso displayed to get them back into the game.
During the Lakers’ 11-0 run, Caruso scored five points — the most that anyone scored during that stretch — grabbed one offensive rebound and recorded a steal. Caruso was a +7 in the box score in the fourth quarter and a team-high +8 for the game.
Caruso became a fan favorite by doing those very same things last season, but he’s made a bit of a leap this season, and LeBron James highlighted his recent play after the game on Wednesday.
“AC is whatever we need,” James said. “AC is kind of a Swiss Army Knife, to be honest. Whether you need scissors, a wine opener, the fingernail clipper, a knife, he’s all of that in one. He can do it all. He just helps our ball club in so many different ways.
“He can bring the ball up and play the point, he can play off of the ball. I mean, he’s shooting like a deadeye from three this year, he defends at a high level and he doesn’t make many mistakes. You can always live with that. You can live with a guy on the floor like that, who just plays championship basketball.”
Despite Caruso’s obvious impact, he’s only averaged 17.8 minutes per game this season, which is actually less than what he averaged last season. On Wednesday, he played just 15:19, including 5:54 in the first half.
In the past, Caruso’s lack of playing time was attributed to his limited offensive game, and while Caruso isn’t nearly as big of an offensive threat as someone like Dennis Schröder is, he’s making his 3-pointers at a ridiculously high rate this year, as James noted. How ridiculous?
Through 14 games, Caruso has shot 55.9% from behind the arc. That’s the highest percentage among players in the NBA that have attempted at least 30 3-pointers this season. His teammate, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, is ranked fourth at 50%.
Then, on defense, the Lakers are 6.6 points better per 100 possessions with him on the floor, which is the highest defensive point differential of anyone on the team that has played at least 100 minutes.
Caruso may not have a case to start over Schröder or Caldwell-Pope, but he’s undoubtedly earned a bigger role than the one he’s had this season. Hopefully Vogel gives him that sooner rather than later.