Tuesday night’s loss the Heat was pretty much expected. On the road + playing a good team + the Lakers being not a good team right now = a loss. I think we can all live with that result. Frustratingly, what has also become somewhat expected but is harder to live with is that D’Angelo Russell couldn’t find his way into the game even though the team trailed by as many as 18 points in the period and ended up losing by 13. As a key young player who, as stated by the head coach needs minutes on the floor to develop, not playing in this particular game seems like a wasted opportunity.
Forget, though, all of that for a moment. Yes, Russell needs to play for development reasons but there are some numbers which say he probably should be playing in the 4th quarter based on merit. Namely, that Russell does his best work in the 2nd half of games, showing especially strong play in the 3rd quarter. The numbers are below:
- In the 2nd half of games, Russell has made 15 of his 29 field goals (51.7%)
- In the 2nd half of games, Russell has made 4 of his 12 three-point field goals (33.3% — league average is 33.7%)
- In the 2nd half of games, Russell has 9 assists to 5 turnovers, nearly a 2-1 ratio
- In the 2nd half of games, the Lakers’ offensive efficiency is 5.4 points better when Russell is in the game (100.3) than when he is on the bench (94.9).
- In the 3rd quarter, Russell’s shooting numbers are even better — 57.1% shooting from the field, 40% shooting from behind the arc.
Okay, that’s nice, but the argument is easily made that Russell’s 3rd period numbers are artificially bumping up his 2nd half numbers and, thus, maybe he shouldn’t play in the 4th quarter as much. I mean, if he’s not playing as well in the 4th maybe sitting on the sideline is warranted.
However, the opposite should also carry some weight, right? I mean, if Russell is doing his best work in the 3rd period wouldn’t it make sense to bring him back into games to let him build on strong play? Instead, Russell has sat out the entire 4th quarter in three of the team’s seven games and only played more than 5 minutes in a 4th quarter twice this year.
It is always important to note that the season is young and that there is more than one way to develop a player. Bringing a player along slowly isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just as force-feeding a guy minutes is not always a good thing. However, based on the number of games Russell has sat out entirely and his level of play in 2nd halves (and the 3rd quarter specifically), it would seem that there is a lack of balance between the pace in which he’s being brought along and what he might be ready for. This disconnect is frustrating to watch play out night after night.