The Los Angeles Lakers possess one of, if not the deadliest one-two punch in the league, with LeBron James and Anthony Davis working in perfect harmony throughout their playoff run.
While the dominant duo set the tone for their teammates, there's another deadly duo that almost always makes good things happen for the Lakers.
LeBron James and Alex Caruso.
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Caruso's story is one of legend, working his way up from the Lakers' G League affiliate, the South Bay Lakers in 2017-18...fast forward to 2020 and he finds himself as a major cog for the Lakers on both ends of the floor in their quest to lift the Larry O'Brien trophy.
Caruso's unassuming looks and high-flying exploits have made him an internet favourite, but the 26-year-old is more than a meme. He might well be one of the Lakers' most important players in the Finals.
His combination of making winning plays, knowing when to score, when to find teammates, and playing hard-nosed defence, makes Caruso not only a valuable piece of the rotation, but a valuable sidekick for LeBron, especially when Anthony Davis is off the floor.
According to NBA Stats, the two-man lineup of LeBron and Caruso has posted a net rating of +16.1 in the 233 minutes they've played together in the postseason. Good things happen when Alex Caruso is on the floor.
"We're one and the same when it comes to winning basketball," James said of Caruso, via the Wall Street Journal. "To see our chemistry together... I think it comes with our minds."
This video perfectly illustrates just how dangerous the two-man combo is:
It's no coincidence that in the Lakers' biggest game of the season, their closeout Game 5 against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, Caruso played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter, finishing the game with 11 points, four assists, two rebounds, one steal, one block and was a plus-16.
"I think Alex Caruso is a true definition of when opportunity meets preparation," LeBron said following the win.
"He's been preparing for this moment for a long time and he just needed opportunity. Luke [Walton] gave him an opportunity last year, and now Coach Vogel and our coaching staff are giving him an opportunity on a bigger stage. He's just taking full advantage of that.
"He's just gotten better and better every single minute he's on the floor," James added. "[And] he's still learning. Every game is still a learning experience for him because he's so new to the NBA. He played a lot of his minutes over the course of his early stages in the G League. But first time I saw him, and seeing him in some of our practices, it wasn't the sneaky athleticism. It was the way that he defended and how cerebral he played the game."
Caruso has delivered no shortage of highlight-reel plays throughout the season, but for LeBron, it's his decision-making and basketball IQ that sets him apart.
pic.twitter.com/NSr6fbqjmD- Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) September 27, 2020
"I gravitate toward players like that right away, because the game, everybody talks about the physical side, and how high you can jump and how fast you can run and all those things. But the mental side is what gets you to the next level," James said.
"I saw that from A.C. and he continues to learn. He's just been great for us."
Caruso has taken the long road to the NBA and with the Lakers in position to win the franchise's 17th championship, don't be surprised if Caruso has a big hand in the Lakers' success.
After grinding away in the background, he's ready for the spotlight.
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