Just three days after leading the Brooklyn Nets to a miraculous fourth-quarter comeback over the Sacramento Kings, All-Star point/shooting guard D’Angelo Russell set his sights on the next game on the team’s schedule that he most likely had marked in his personal calendar. The Nets played the Los Angeles Lakers Friday and they officially eliminated them from playoff contention in a 111-106 victory thanks in large part to Russell.
He may not have led the team in scoring on the night, but his 21 points were good for second on the team and he registered a double-double with his team-high 13 assists as he was distributing the ball to his teammates in transition so that they can score.
"My job as far as putting guys in position to make plays, balance when to score and when to pass and facilitate,” said Russell. “They were blitzing me early and getting the ball out of my hands. I still wanted to keep guys in position the score. The outcome was what it was. They weren't allowing me to come in and dominate by scoring. I try to do both and keep that balance right."
Its poetic justice that the Russell was essentially the hand that drove the final dagger through the heart of the Lakers postseason hopes for the 2018-2019 season just two years after the team traded him to the Nets. He was the No.2 overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft and is enjoying his breakout season in his fourth year in the league and second with Brooklyn.
The Nets are currently sitting in the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference and could move into the sixth if they finish with a better record than the Detroit Pistons while his former team will be on the outside looking in for the fifth straight year.
The loss to the Russell led Brooklyn squad doesn’t just extend the L.A.’s playoff drought, but it also means that this will be the first postseason since 2005 that will not feature a Lebron James led team as well as the streak of a King James making it to the Finals. King James hasn’t missed a Finals series in eight years so it will be a little weird for NBA fans not seeing the face of one of the staples in playoffs for over a decade.
Russell’s emergence is this season is making the Lakers decision to trade him after infamous “snitching” incident look more and more foolish with the passing day. The more he continues to develop, and the team continues to win, the more appealing the team becomes to potential free agent star players. He is reportedly going to give Golden State Warriors’ small/power forward Kevin Durant a full tour of Brooklyn in an attempt to persuade the All-Star to join him on an ascending Nets team.