Caruso, a fan-favorite in LA, scored 10 points, grabbed six rebounds and doled out four assists in 22 minutes. He played the final four-plus minutes of regulation and all of overtime. After the win, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel had some high praise for Caruso.
“Alex is our secret weapon. He comes in and usually provides a spark off the bench,” Vogel told reporter, per Bleacher Report. “I break him out when I need him,” he added.
Alex Caruso has Chance for Expanded Role With Lakers
Caruso said his background of being on a two-way contract has helped him prepare for unexpected amounts of playing time. Whether he’s going to play 5 minutes of 25, he’ll be locked in.
“I did it for the last two years — two-way contract, that’s what I did,” Caruso said, via the Los Angeles Times. “They brought me up, I didn’t know when I was going to play, if I was going to play. It was just about being ready.… I’ve been preparing for this the last couple years.”
There has been some clamoring from the Lakers fan base for Caruso to get more minutes because of how ineffective Rajon Rondo has been at times — save for his season-high 23-point performance against the Suns on Feb. 10. Vogel teased that Caruso could add a larger workload after the All-Star break.
“There’s a possibility for it expanding,” Vogel said.
LeBron James, Lakers Happy With Where They Are
With the win over the Nuggets — the second-place team in the Western Conference — the Lakers pushed their Western Conference best record to 41-12, winning their last three games before the break.
“We are where we need to be,” James told the Los Angeles Times. “We’ll come back off the break and get ready for the final stretch of the regular season. You don’t put too much into it. You understand you played some good basketball along the way, played some not good basketball. But you want to continue to get better and continue to trust the process.”
James and Anthony Davis are the only All-Stars from the Lakers, but Dwight Howard will be in the dunk contest. It should be a god time, but James is excited for the team to come back recharged following the time off.
“I’m very excited for my teammates to be able to get some rest, decompress and get away from the game and come back fresh,” James said. “And myself will be locked in for them no matter how much rest I can get. It doesn’t matter.”
The No. 1 seed in the West will be the goal for the Lakers, who have four game lead over the nuggets and a close chase pack that includes the Jazz and Clippers as well.
“We don’t talk about it,” James told ESPN. “For us, we would love to play in front of our home fans as much as we can. We love being there with our Laker faithful.
“But at the end of the day, you go out and play each and every game like it’s its own game. You can’t worry about what could happen the following day. You can only look at the present, like we did tonight.”