LOS ANGELES — In a matchup between two of the league’s worst teams minus Kobe Bryant once again, the Los Angele Lakers led by D’Angelo Russell‘s career-high 39 points topped the Brooklyn Nets 107-101.
The Lakers took charge in the first quarter behind 47.6 percent shooting with six assists on 10 made field goals. Russell led the charge in the second quarter scoring 10 of his first-half best 15 points including three 3-pointers helping his team take as much as a 12-point lead. Los Angeles led 58-50 at the half.
Brooklyn crept back into the game with a 13-2 run to cut the deficit to 73-72 late in the third quarter. However, Jordan Clarkson knocked a 3-pointer to beat the buzzer at the end of the period to give the Lakers a 79-74 lead heading into the final quarter of play.
Russell continued to carry the Lakers offensively in the fourth quarter helping maintain their lead throughout the period. He scored a quarter-high 16 points, including a pair of 3-pointers with less than a minute to play.
This snaps an eight-game losing streak and gives the Lakers their first win at home since Feb. 2. Here are five things we learned from Tuesday’s contest:
Russell’s historic night
Since being reinserted into the starting lineup, Russell has taken full advantage of the opportunity coming off two consecutive 20-plus point performance. The Lakers’ rookie put together the best performance of his young career with a career-high 39 points, which is the most points scored by any rookie this season.
Russell also finished with career highs in field goals made (14) and 3-pointers made (eight) in what was his third straight 20-plus point outing. He was assertive with his shot from the get-go knocking down six of his first eight shot attempts scoring a first-half high 15 points. He made shots from a variety of spots on the floor knocking down a trio fo 3-pointers, a fadeaway jumper, and a floater in transition.
He continued to remain hot in the second half, in particular, the fourth quarter, scoring 16 points that included two critical 3-pointers in the final minute that helped the Lakers edge the Nets.
“I was trying to play through the offense and be aggressive at the same time. I was trying to pick and choose my spots,” Russell said. “It was just my night and it worked out great for me.”
“Consistency and opportunity are the biggest things. When you got a coach you got to develop that trust with him so that he knows he can rely on you.”
Although it has been a rollercoaster type season for Russell, he entered Tuesday’s tilt in the top five in several categories among rookies ranking fourth in scoring (12.4), third in assists (3.4), fifth in 3-point percentage (34.7), and third in steals (1.1).
In the 18 games since returning to the starting lineup, Julius Randle has been an absolute tear averaging 12.9 points and 11.6 rebounds per game, including 11 double-doubles over that span.
The 21-year-old added to his strong play over the last several weeks by recording his 25th double-double of the season with 14 points and 13 rebounds in the win.
Randle was once again active on both ends of the floor putting up a productive first half with eight points and a game-high six rebounds through the first two quarters of play. He had a couple of dunks in transition and a Kobe-esque baseline fadeaway jumper. He continued to be a factor in the second on the glass and in the paint.
With the starting job secured through the final 20-plus games of the season, Randle has a great opportunity to string together a few more encouraging performances to close his first full season.
No Kobe, Brown in
With another spot start in place of Kobe Bryant, rookie forward Anthony Brown was once again a non-factor offensive scoring just two points on 1-of-6 shooting with three rebounds and two assists in 26 minutes played.
Prior to the game, Scott had voiced that he wanted to see Brown be more assertive on the offensive end of the floor.
“I would like to see him be a little more aggressive (offensively) and more confident on that end of the floor,” Scott said. “Defensively he has the world of confidence that he can guard most people that he has to guard. I would like to see him like that on the other end as well. I just want him to take his shot and be aggressive.”
The 23-year-old did look for his shot on a couple occasions and had a few good looks but his shot wasn’t falling. It was a step in the right direction, but it’s clear that he’s a work in progress on that end of the floor.
Brown will likely have the opportunity to show improvement offensively with likely a bigger role through the remainder of the season with Scott stating on Monday that he’s going to play his younger players in larger capacities.
It wasn’t all positive with the Lakers getting their 12th win of the season as Lou Williams‘ night was ended early after he suffered a moderate strain to his left hamstring. He will not travel with the team for Wednesday’s game the Denver Nuggets, and will be examined Wednesday.
Williams has been a reliable source of offensive production for the Lakers in his first season putting up similar numbers to last year with the Toronto Raptors, where he won the Sixth Man of the Year award. He has scored in double-figures 32 times this season, including 15 contests with 20 or more points highlighted by his career-high 44 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The fact that Williams will not travel with the team shows that the injury is significant enough that it may force him to miss an extended period of time. If so, this would mean a heavier reliance on Clarkson and Russell, and also more playing time for Marcelo Huertas, who had a couple of impressive passes in Tuesday’s win.
Lopez loves playing Lakers
Entering Tuesday’s game, Brook Lopez has had an extremely productive track record against the Lakers with the highest points per game for a Nets players against them. He also averaged 24.6 points in five career road games facing Los Angeles with four 20-plus point performances.
Lopez notched another 20-point outing to that list with a team-high 23 points on 9-of-18 shooting with seven rebounds in the loss. He was an offensive factor throughout the game helping keep Brooklyn within striking distance in the second half before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.
That said, Lopez is in the midst of arguably his best individual season despite the Nets’ struggles averaging a career-high 20.5 points with 8.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. He’s just one of two players alongside Anthony Davis averaging 20-plus points, eight-plus rebounds, and more than 1.5 blocks per game. If he were to maintain these statistics, he would be the second player in franchise history since Derrick Coleman to do so.
The 27-year-old has been a bright spot for the Nets in what’s been a downtrodden season sitting with one of the worst records in the league.