The Los Angeles Lakers have not been in the playoffs since 2014, and their Game 1 performance against Portland was indicative of their on-court performance. The Lakers’ offensive struggles were on full display as they began the game with a slow start and then dug themselves out of a hole in the second half. The Lakers offense is in treacherous waters. Despite having two megastars, the team will need the following role players to step up immediately.
Will the real Alex Caruso stand up? Shooting one of six from the field is not sufficient. Statistically, comparing top two-man Laker lineups, Caruso stands at the top of the following statistical categories, 115.0 offense, 94.2 defense, and +20.8 net ratings over 485 minutes. Caruso will have to translate that tandem synergy with the second unit with his basketball IQ.
Despite shooting trouble in Game 1, Caruso must bring energy off the bench. On the offensive front, he will need to push the floor while feeding the big men, taking advantage of Anthony Davis in the post, aside from getting to his sweet spots while getting his shot and timing on par.
On the defensive front, when guarding either CJ McCollum or Damian Lillard, he will need to force the guards to earn each shot despite Lillard’s lethal 6-13 3-point shooting range in Game 1.
Alex Caruso just makes plays 👏
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) August 19, 2020
Substitute Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and insert shot creator, sharpshooter Dion Waiters. He can provide the second unit with the firepower that the team has been missing. While LeBron was on the bench in Game 1, the team lacked another playmaker aside from Kyle Kuzma pushing the floor and drawing fouls in the paint. It was evident on the stat sheet with a stagnant offense that shot 35.1% of their shots from the field, despite making a comeback in the second half.
Waiters is lethal from the perimeter shooting a 34.6 3-point career percentage and 51.8 percent for corner 3-pointers in the playoffs. At age 28, he’s still crafty in splitting defenses to attack the paint and draw a foul. Never has he shied away from making tough shots, just ask Kevin Durant. Despite being a liability at times on the defensive end, you can count on Waiters to light up the scoreboard when on the court.
In order to hoist the franchise’s 17th Larry O’Brien trophy, Kyle Kuzma has to step up and be the lights-out shooter King James needs. Despite having to adapt to his new role coming off the bench and battling injuries throughout the season, Kuzma’s shooting has been rejuvenated and came in the clutch for his team in their recent win over Denver’s Bol Bol in the final minutes.
Monday night was no different as he led the fourth-quarter rally with his clutch 3-pointer to tie the game at 78-78. His teammates and coaches believe in his playmaking ability on both ends, and it’s starting to show as his confidence has skyrocketed.
For the young guard, the time is now. Since he’s been under the leadership of LeBron and the late Kobe Bryant, Kuzma is poised to attack at will as a two-way threat for opposing teams. If Monday’s performance was an indication of that, do not be shocked to see Coach Frank Vogel insert Kuzma into the starting lineup come Thursday night.
Laker Nation has been patiently salivating for the return of the purple and gold to the playoffs. Tuesday night’s Game 1 against the Portland Trail Blazers was an utter anomaly. Thursday night must showcase a determined and dominating assassin play from role players Caruso, Waiters, and Kuzma to supplement their megastars Game 2 performance. The coaching staff must pivot from Game 1 and put their best players in a position to succeed.
For added pressure, the Lakers are in a dire win scenario, if they plan on steering this ship on the right path and escaping this Trail Blazers series.