Coming off yet another dismal outing with the Lakers, a one-for-five effort at Dallas on Friday night, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope felt it was time to exorcise his demons.
So on Saturday night, Caldwell-Pope had his own clear-his-head meeting.
And the next night, Caldwell-Pope produced his best game of this young season on Sunday night, scoring a season-high 14 points on five-for-nine shooting that included two clutch baskets when the Lakers were in need of a lift against the San Antonio Spurs.
“Last night I had a long talk with myself just about being aggressive and just playing free out there,” Caldwell-Pope said after the Lakers won their fifth consecutive game. “I cleared my mind, and my heart just found the love of the game again. I just had fun out there tonight.”
His moment of truth came in the decisive fourth quarter.
Caldwell-Pope had been called upon in this game because starting guard Danny Green had been in foul trouble all game and starting guard Avery Bradley had left late in the fourth with a bruised lower right leg.
The Lakers had been reeling, their 19-point lead having turned into a 90-90 score in the final quarter.
LeBron James had kept his faith in Caldwell-Pope, and the 6-foot-6 guard rewarded his friend and teammate and the Lakers for sticking with him.
Caldwell-Pope drilled a 17-foot jumper off a pass from James to give the Lakers a 92-90 lead, and he drilled a 26-foot three-pointer off another pass from James 22 seconds later for a 95-90 Lakers lead that kept them in control the rest of the way.
After the game, Lakers coach Frank Vogel praised Caldwell-Pope for persevering.
“KCP, I think had probably the two biggest shots of the game, which, for a guy who’s been struggling out of the gates, it was great to see him step up at a time when we needed him,” Vogel said. “And we were able to secure the victory.”
Each of his shots that clanged off the rim in his first five games began to take a toll on Caldwell-Pope.
He had made just 33.3% of his shots and was shooting an abysmal 20% from three-pointers during that time.
Something had to change for Caldwell-Pope.
“[It was] too much thinking. Thinking about the next shot — if I’m going to miss it or not,” he said. “Trying to find my spots and maybe get a rhythm. So that’s been kind of like on myself, playing mind games. So I kind of got out of my head and have been playing free.”
He quickly freed his mind against the Spurs by making his first two shots in the first quarter.
His three-pointer helped his confidence and his driving layup kept pushing his frame of mind in the right direction.
“Going to the rim, you either get fouled or get an easy two,” Caldwell-Pope said. “Going to the free-throw line, getting an easy two buckets there, which I’m starting to get a rhythm there…Other than that, it just felt good to have a good game.”