In Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night, it was a collection of Lakers who proved to be the third scorers this team has so badly yearned for throughout the 2019-20 season.
It started with the struggling starting backcourt of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Danny Green and coursed its way through reserves Markieff Morris, Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso and the all-around play of Rajon Rondo at the AdventHealth Arena.
As a group, they all did their part, producing a combined 45 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists, playing their roles the right way during the 102-96 victory over the Miami Heat that gave the Lakers a 3-1 lead in the Finals.
“We don’t have a third scorer. That’s not how our offense is built,” Kuzma said on a videoconference after scoring nine points. “Our offense is really just AD and Bron and everyone else plays team basketball.
"We’ve had a long season [and] hopefully you guys see that by now. That’s how we play. Everybody just steps up at different times. That’s what a team does. So, that’s what it is.”
Caldwell-Pope was strong in the beginning and even stronger toward the end.
He had 10 points in the first quarter to help the Lakers get off to a solid start and he had five big-time points in the fourth: a three-pointer in front of the Heat bench and a driving layup on the next possession that gave the Lakers a seven-point lead with two minutes left in the game.
He was six for 12 from the field and finished his night with 15 points, three rebounds and five assists.
He also played solid defense on Heat shooters Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro.
“It means a lot that my teammates lean on me to pick up the energy on the defensive end and also make shots on the offensive end,” Caldwell-Pope said on a videoconference. “I just felt good tonight, stayed in rhythm, within myself and just played.”
Green had 10 points on four-for-eight shooting and two rebounds. He had entered the game shooting an awful 19% from the field in the first three games and 16.7% from three-point range.
Morris started the second half at center in place of Dwight Howard, which allowed the Lakers to play better defense against the smaller Heat players.
Morris had nine points, three rebounds and two assists in 30 minutes.
Rondo had just two points and was one for seven from the field. But he had seven rebounds and five assists and was a plus-eight in the plus-minus department. His only basket came on a driving layup late in the game that gave the Lakers a 97-91 lead.
“We know what AD and LeBron are going to bring to the table every night,” said Caruso, who had seven points in 22 minutes. “They are going to get their attention, they are going to get their shots, they are going to get their numbers because they are two of the best players in the world.
“Our third star, or best player, is whoever hits open shots.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.