LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers snapped a three-game losing streak against the Denver Nuggets in a thrilling 120-116 win.
It was a back-and-forth contest throughout the night with Los Angeles getting the upper hand in the final minutes of the game. This all matched the same amount of wins they had all of last season. Here are a few takeaways from Tuesday night:
Russell Strong in Return
After missing the last three games due to a right knee injury, D’Angelo Russell strung together a solid all-around outing recording a double-double with 22 points and a career-high 10 assists along with seven rebounds in a team-high 34 minutes.
It took Russell 115 career NBA games to register his first double-digit assist performance, which made the game that much more meaningful for the second-year guard.
“I’m proud of myself,” Russell said of his career performance. “I was trying and I didn’t even know was that close. Guys were just making shots and it just made it easier for me.”
Russell was particularly huge down the stretch after being subbed in with just over five minutes left in the game hitting numerous big shots to keep the Lakers in the game and pull away in the final minute finishing with eight points and two assists in the period.
He hit a jumper with 43.8 seconds left and nailed four free throws to keep the Nuggets at bay in the waning moments. It was an outing that head coach Luke Walton came away from the decision making from his young point guard.
“I thought D’Angelo was fantastic tonight,” Walton said. “Ten assists and the two turnovers he had, I thought were good passes. I thought he was a huge factor for our win tonight.”
In the last couple of weeks, Lakers rookie center Ivica Zubac has picked up a more prominent role in the rotation.
Zubac added another productive outing to his latest string of games posting a career-high 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting and six rebounds in 21 minutes played. He has now scored in double-figures in three consecutive games, four times in the last six contests, and is averaging 9.0 rebounds over the last three contests.
The 19-year-old has continued to look more comfortable on the floor with each passing contest finding ways to stay involved on the offensive end of the floor when he is in the game. Zubac has clearly shown that through his production with notching three double-doubles in the last six games.
“Zu was great at rolling down the lane and he just makes the simple play,” Walton said. “He never gets rattled. He takes it all with a smile and fires back. It’s impressive.”
Following Tuesday’s game, Russell also spewed some major praise toward Zubac that was echoed much of the same sentiment recently shared by his teammates and the coaching staff.
“He is always in the right position. He makes the right decision,” Russell said. “He has the making of something of special. I really truly believe he is going to be special.”
With Walton voicing that Zubac “has earned the right to be in the rotation,” it will provide him more opportunities to show more flashes of potential and promise.
Although the Lakers have struggled for much of the season defensively, it hasn’t exactly been the case on the other end of the floor being one of the league’s highest scoring teams.
This was on full display on Tuesday night as Los Angeles scored 120 points on 52.8 percent from the field, 46.2 percent from beyond the arc, and dished out 25 assists. This included a massive edge in the paint with a 64-34 advantage on the night and pushes their record to 6-1 when scoring at least 120 points.
The Lakers had three players with 20 or more points with Nick Young leading the way with 23 points, Russell had 22, and Lou Williams finished with 21. It was the first time the team has done so since Nov. 18 against the San Antonio Spurs.
“I thought there were multiple guys that really played a part in the style that was fun to watch, fun to coach, fun for the fans, fun or most of us in the building,” Walton said.
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Bob Garcia IV
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