LOS ANGELES — In what turned out to be an offensive showcase between the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers, the defending champions squeezed out a 125-120 win.
The Lakers held a lead throughout much of the second half but fell short in the final few minutes behind a career-best outing from D’Angelo Russell. Here a few takeaways from Sunday’s tilt:
Russell’ Big Night
In his first game back in the starting lineup in a week, Russell proved to be more than up for the challenge against the Cavaliers recording a career-high 40 points on 14-of-22 shooting from the field.
Russell got off to a strong start notching 18 of the Lakers’ 28 points in the first quarter on 6-of-8 shooting, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. He brought that total up to a first-half high 22 points that helped give his team a lead at the half.
He heated up in the third quarter scoring 15 points on an efficient 5-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc helping keep the Lakers ahead going into the fourth quarter. However, aside from a three-point play in the final period, Russell was quite offensively in the final eight minutes of the game.
Following the game, he attributed his big offensive night to his aggressiveness on the offensive end of the floor.
“Honestly I feel like I was aggressive from the jump,” Russell said, who is now the youngest player in team history to record 40 points. “Usually when I get myself in trouble turning the ball over it’s because I’m not being aggressive.”
His teammates were quite complimentary of his best individual scoring performance crediting his assertiveness in looking for his shot.
“He had a good pace,” Brandon Ingram said. “His energy was good. Of course, he ran the team tonight so when you are knocking down shots you just keep shooting and that is definitely what he did.”
In light of that, Russell also received high praise from LeBron James after the game.
“He’s a special guy. He’s a special player,” James said. “Defensively we just had to stay in tune and get some shots. They don’t look like a team that’s only won 20 games. Russell was extremely hot tonight and those guys fed off of him.”
It will be interesting to see how Russell responds on Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Clippers after his huge outing.
Cavs’ Big Three
A day after sitting against the Clippers, the Cavaliers’ big three put on full display their offensive firepower scoring a combined 101 points in the win.
The charge for the Cavaliers was led by Kyrie Irving scoring 46 points on an efficient 15-of-21 shooting from the field, including 6-of-10 from beyond the arc. James also added another solid outing to his MVP-caliber season with 34 points, seven assists, and six rebounds.
The duo was particularly huge in the final fourth quarter with the duo combining for 28 of the Cavaliers’ 43 points in the period that helped them turn a 15-point swing in their favor.
“They’re a top two or three team in the league and the defending champs,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “They’re not going to go away, that’s what they do. That’s why they’re two of the best.”
Kevin Love also had a strong night with a double-double of 21 points and 15 rebounds. It turned out to be another impressive game from one of the league’s highest scoring offenses that pushed Cleveland’s record to 18-1 this season when hitting at least 120 points scored.
One of the things lost in the shuffle of all the scoring on Sunday night was another encouraging performance from the Lakers’ rookie forward, who had 18 points with six rebounds in 40 minutes played.
It has been a strong month of March for Ingram, who entered the game averaging 12.3 points on 50.6 percent shooting with 3.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists in eight games.
Despite a matchup against James, Ingram held his own offensively finding his shot on different spots on the floor throughout the contest. Following the game, the 19-year-old was quite appreciative of the opportunity to play the four-time league MVP.
“I think it was a better game,” Ingram said. “Overall it was just a good matchup. It just gave me experience guarding a guy that has been in the league for a very long time and established who he is. It was a good matchup for me.”
Although his numbers don’t necessary pop off the paper, Ingram has picked up his play as the season has worn on. With just under a month left in the season, he will have more time to gain valuable experience.