Lakers’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope day-to-day with knee injury

Los Angeles guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is day-to-day with a mild left knee contusion as the Lakers get ready for Game 4 of Round 1 of the NBA playoffs, the team announced on Friday.

Caldwell-Pope underwent an MRI Friday, which confirmed no structural damage, after leaving Thursday night’s 109-95 win over the Phoenix Suns with 4:16 left in the third quarter. He made contact with Suns guard Devin Booker and fell to the floor, but was able to get back to the bench under his own power. The Lakers ruled him out with a left quad contusion.

The Lakers took a 2-1 lead over the Suns in the series with Thursday’s win. Game 4 of the series takes place Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Why is he important to the Lakers?

Jovan Buha, Lakers beat writer: Caldwell-Pope is the Lakers’ best 3-and-D wing. He’s their best shooter and an optimal fit in any lineup. He’s essential to Los Angeles’ identity, as his defensive activity often leads to transition points, and there are few players quicker than Caldwell-Pope on the break.

He’s played solid defense on Devin Booker, chasing him around and through on- and off-ball screens. Though he’s yet to make shots in the series, he’s still a 3-point threat that Phoenix respects away from the ball.

If he’s out, who’ll replace him?

Buha: The most likely replacement for Caldwell-Pope would be Wesley Matthews, a career-long starter and the Laker with the closest skill set to Caldwell-Pope — though it’s worth noting Caldwell-Pope is better than Matthews on both ends.

Matthews should fill in as a 25-plus-minute option against Booker. The trickle-down effect in the rotation will also lead to more minutes for Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso and possibly Talen Horton-Tucker. Caldwell-Pope’s absence will be most felt with his floor-spacing, as there isn’t another Laker shooter that commands the same level of respect from the Suns’ defense.


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