Welcome To The Caru-Show
On FS1's Undisputed, just a few short weeks ago, comedian Michael Rappaport said that Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Carsuo looked like the guy who just delivered a pizza to his house.
Caruso, of course, is not leading a double life, leaving the Orlando bubble to deliver pizza as a side job.
But, he is delivering for the Lakers.
While the headlines are dominated by LA's superstar duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis – both of whom were the first overall picks in their respective drafts – the team's unsung hero might be the undrafted Caruso, who spent significant time in the G League before getting his big NBA break with the Lakers.
Caruso only averaged 5.5 points this season, but he's become a crucial role player for the Lakers this postseason, making timely plays on offense while serving as one of the squad's best perimeter defenders.
In fact, Caruso has been such an important piece for the Lakers that he found himself closing the fourth quarter of Game 4 against the Houston Rockets alongside the likes of James, Davis, and former NBA champion Rajon Rondo.
And he proved he was meant to be on the floor in that closing lineup by not only connecting on a three that pushed the Lakers' lead from 5 to 8 points in the final minute, but getting a steal on the next possession to seal the game.
After the game, Caruso said he now believes that belongs on the court in high-leverage moments, despite his stature as an undrafted, former G-Leaguer.
Caruso's confidence led retired NBA champion Kendrick Perkins to label him the "heart and soul" of the Lakers squad on Friday morning.
"Alex Caruso, in my opinion, is the heart and soul of the Los Angeles Lakers. When you watch the way that he plays the game every single night, he makes winning plays. He's diving on the floor for loose balls. He's making a conscious effort on the defensive end."
The numbers support Perkins' stance that Caruso is the straw that stirs the drink of the Lakers' defense.
The Lakers finished third in defensive rating as a team in the regular season with a 106.1 rating, and were fourth in points allowed at 107.6 per game.
Their defensive dominance can be attributed to the play of Davis, who finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting, but a deeper dive shows Caruso was important as well.
In the regular season, Caruso sported a defensive rating of 101.0, which ranked 12th among all players who played at least 15 minutes per game.
And in the playoffs, he has been even more dominant on the defensive end, sporting a league-best 97.9 rating among players who see 20 or more minutes per game.
Caruso's playoff defensive numbers become more impressive when considering he's matched up with arguably the two best backcourts in the NBA this past season: the Portland Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, and the Houston Rockets' James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has taken notice, positing that Caruso's defensive impact can't be quantified.
The Lakers will take the floor for Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinals matchup with Houston on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET, looking to book their first trip to the Western Conference Finals since 2010.
In other words, tune in Saturday night for the next episode of "The Caru-Show."