The Los Angeles Lakers are the reigning NBA champions and, as such, they demand respect, even as the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference Playoffs. Part of the reason the Lakers needed to emerge from the Play-in Tournament was a lack of regular season cohesion, however, as the team battled considerable injury issues, most notably to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. In the postseason, those problems haven’t bit Los Angeles but, on Thursday, the Lakers suffered a personnel loss when starting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope suffered what was eventually diagnosed as a left quad contusion in the third quarter.
Los Angeles Lakers say guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (left quad contusion) is questionable to return tonight against the Phoenix Suns.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) May 28, 2021
The good news is that for the initial concern that it might be a knee injury given where he was grabbing at seems to be alleviated by the quad contusion diagnosis.
Caldwell-Pope appeared for 26 minutes before exiting in Game 3 and, while he isn’t known for enormous box-score impact, the 28-year-old is a key piece for Los Angeles. He was arguably the Lakers’ third-best player at times during the run to the 2020 NBA title, converting more than 40 percent of his threes in each of the first three playoff series for Los Angeles. Beyond that, Caldwell-Pope is a capable, versatile defender, and he has proven to be effective enough to remain on the floor in crunch time at the highest levels of the sport.
With Caldwell-Pope out, perimeter players like Dennis Schröder, Alex Caruso, and Wesley Matthews became more important, with Los Angeles also deploying sharpshooting reserve Ben McLemore for a handful of minutes in Game 3. Caldwell-Pope’s injury doesn’t seem to be too serious, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they look to keep him off the floor so long as they continue to hold a healthy lead after going into the fourth quarter up 13.
UPDATE: After going up 18 early in the fourth, the Lakers announced Caldwell-Pope was done for the night.