Kentavious Caldwell-Pope didn’t know how close he was to breaking some three-point records and joining elite company. He just knew that it felt so good to be hitting shots, to get that hot, and to do what the Lakers signed him to do after what’s been a trying season.
He made eight three-pointers in the Lakers’ 113-108 win over the Sacramento Kings. The only Laker to make nine in a game was Kobe Bryant.
“I didn’t know,” Caldwell-Pope said with a sheepish smile. “I should’ve tried to shoot another one.”
On Saturday, Caldwell-Pope produced his finest game of the season, scoring 34 points. He made eight of his 14 three-point attempts and added seven rebounds. Seventeen of his points came in the third quarter, when he helped the Lakers go from trailing by eight to leading by four. And it was during that period that Caldwell-Pope made five three-pointers.
His eight three-pointers overall set a season high for Caldwell-Pope and tied a career high. They also matched the most three-pointers made in the Golden 1 Center, which is in its second season. Portland’s Damian Lillard also made eight three-pointers here on Feb. 9.
“He had the hot hand,” Isaiah Thomas said. “He seen a couple go down and I bet it felt like everything he shot was going in.”
Said rookie Kyle Kuzma: “It’s super cool. Any time somebody gets hot we all cheer. Especially for him. He hasn’t necessarily played the way I bet he thinks he wanted to play this year. Having that type of output is big time for him.”
With the win, the Lakers improved to 25-34, while the Kings fell to 18-41.
Thomas, whom the Kings drafted in 2011, scored 17 points, nine of them in the fourth quarter. Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Brook Lopez and Kuzma all reached double figures for the Lakers.
The Kings were led by Skal Labissiere and Bogdan Bogdanovic, both of whom scored 21 points.
Sacramento was energetic early, but before long Caldwell-Pope gave a taste of what was to come. He made three three-pointers in the first quarter, leading the Lakers with nine points during that period.
By halftime, the Kings led 58-50 and their bench had outscored the Lakers’ bench 30-16 in the first half.
The Lakers’ defensive intensity improved in the second half, and that’s also when Caldwell-Pope took over.
The Kings put up plenty of fight in the fourth. The Lakers led 107-100 after a pair of free throws by Ingram with 1:32 left in the game. But then the Kings mounted a furious comeback.
Caldwell-Pope gave the Kings some hope. He fouled Bogdanovic as the Kings guard shot a three-pointer. Bogdanovic made the three with 12.7 seconds left and hit the ensuing free throw to bring the Kings to within one point. The Lakers’ lead was down to 109-108.
But the Kings wouldn’t score again, allowing the Lakers to open their four-game road trip with a win.
For Caldwell-Pope it meant more than that. His season has been interrupted three times, once by a two-game suspension to start the season and then when he had to serve a 25-day jail sentence.
A work release program allowed him to leave the facility for games and practices in the state, but there wasn’t time for extra work beyond that.
Free of that burden since the second week of January, Caldwell-Pope’s play improved. Then an Achilles injury interrupted his work again.
“It was kind of hard with that situation I had but now that’s behind me,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I can focus on just one thing that’s basketball. It’s been good just to be able to get my work when I need it and just be ready for games.”
The Lakers reaped the benefits Saturday.
“Give him credit because he’s done a really nice job of putting in extra work, too,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “We’re such a better team when he’s feeling confident and feeling like he’s got that shot going for him.”