| Detroit Free Press
The unsung hero of Game 4 of Tuesday’s NBA Finals was … Kentavious Caldwell-Pope?
The former Detroit Pistons guard came up with two huge buckets late to stave off another upset bid by the Miami Heat, helping the Los Angeles Lakers to a 102-96 win and a 3-1 series lead in the Orlando Bubble.
After a sloppy first half, LeBron James elevated his game to the necessary level the Lakers needed in Game 4, and received plenty of help, with some clutch plays by Rajon Rondo and Anthony Davis in the final minutes.
But perhaps the most important contributions of the night came from Caldwell-Pope, and James acknowledged those key plays in his postgame interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols.
The 27-year-old Caldwell-Pope delivered the bread from heaven that general manager Rob Pelinka compared him to during his introductory news conference.
After Jimmy Butler missed a corner 3 that would have given the Heat the lead, James pushed in transition and found Caldwell-Pope in the right corner for 3 to put the Lakers up 93-88.
On the next Lakers possession, with the shot clock about to expire, Caldwell-Pope drove hard to his right against Duncan Robinson and extended over him for a right-hand layup to put the Lakers ahead 95-88 with 2:02 remaining.
Caldwell-Pope finished with 15 points, third-most on the Lakers behind James (28) and Davis (22). He shot 6-for-12 overall, 3-for-8 from 3, and added five assists and three rebounds in 31 minutes.
He struggled in the first three games of the Finals, shooting 5-for-20 from 3 and 27.6% overall in averaging 9.7 points.
Now, he is one win from adding “starter on an NBA champion” to his resume.
The Lakers can win the championship Friday in Game 5.
Caldwell-Pope and the Pistons parted ways in 2017 after four seasons. He turned down a four-year, $80 million deal from president/coach Stan Van Gundy before the 2016-17 season, making him a restricted free agent the following summer.
The Pistons traded for Avery Bradley and let Caldwell-Pope go in the offseason. He has earned $37.8 million in three years with Los Angeles, and has an $8.5 million player option for next season.
The former Georgia product finished his Pistons career averaging 11.7 points in 314 games (274 starts), shooting 33.4% from 3. He was the eighth overall pick in 2013 by Joe Dumars and the Pistons.
In three seasons with the Lakers, Caldwell-Pope has averaged 11.4 points and shot 36.9% from 3 in 225 games (123 starts).
He is a win away from getting a coveted NBA championship ring on his finger as a key contributor to James’ fourth title and first alongside Davis.
Erik García Gundersen of LeBron Wire, USA TODAY NETWORK contributed.