It’s fun when things just sort of work out, you know? A day after Reed put up a post detailing how strong a season D’Angelo Russell is having and how, due to a slow start, it has gone a bit under the radar, Russell has his best game of the season and leads the Lakers to a win in the most not-under-the-radar way imaginable.
Russell scored a game high 39 points – including 24 in the 2nd half – and sank 8 three pointers with the final one being a d’agger which closed the door on the Nets. It was a virtuoso performance from the just turned 20 year old and gave a glimpse of what he is capable of when things start to click. I mean, just look at these shots.
As noted in the clip, Russell’s 39 points were the most for a Lakers’ rookie since Elgin Baylor scored 55 back in 1959 when the team was still in Minneapolis. His 39 were also the most by a rookie this season, surpassing the previous high of 35 by Karl Anthony-Towns.
What impressed me most — well, besides the shot making — was how good Russell’s movement was, with and without the ball, to get open. The ones that stand out most to me are:
1). The three pointer in the corner off the assist from Anthony Brown where Russell attacked the rim, kicked the ball out on a nifty pass to Brown at the top of the key, then used his momentum of going to rim to run to the corner to get open. Steph Curry is a master of this type of movement, but Russell did a pretty good impersonation.
2). The three pointer in the corner off the assist from Larry Nance Jr. After Nick Young drove and dished to Nance, Russell saw his man ball watching and slid behind him to the corner. This not only set Russell up for an easier shot while taking advantage of his defender slepping, but gave him a better passing angle for Nance to even hit him with the pass.
3). The layup off the no look pass from Clarkson. Russell’s man wasn’t even sleeping fully, but he still made a strong cut behind him. The finish around Thad Young was also nifty with Russell using his full extension to keep the ball away from the help defender. Clarkson’s pass was also fantastic.
This may be the first time Russell has put it all together in a single game — the deep ball shot making, the cutting, and the finishing in the paint — but if you’ve been watching this year, you would know that these are all tools he has in his box. To see him finally find his stride and get his entire game going was sweet to see.
Who knows if this is a signature game or a performance Russell uses as a stepping stone for the rest of the year. But, regardless, I’m going to savor this one. It’s rare you see such a young player explode in this way and to do so with such huge shots down the stretch to seal the game made it even better.