D’Angelo Russell Feels Lakers Are Better Team This Year Than Last
D'Angelo Russell, Lakers, Pelicans
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

For the second consecutive season the Los Angeles Lakers find themselves in the upper bracket of the Play-In Tournament with two chances to win one game and qualify for the playoffs. It is a position that LeBron James, Anthony Davis and D’Angelo Russell, amongst others on the roster, are familiar and comfortable with.

Thanks to their dominant victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday, combined with a Phoenix Suns win on the final day of the regular season, the Lakers get to stay in New Orleans for a rematch that will determine the seventh seed in the Western Conference.

The Lakers went 3-1 against the Pelicans this year with all three victories coming by at least 16 points, but Russell knows this Play-In game will be different. The point guard is expecting New Orleans to come out on fire, but feels this Lakers team is better than they were last year and is equipped to handle whatever adversity comes their way, as seen on Spectrum SportsNet:

“We know they’re gonna come out ready to give it all they got. I think our group is experienced as well knowing how to match that energy and prepare for that energy on the road. So all the adversity is against us and we’re ready. I like our experience with the core group that we have that made that run last year, going into this year with adversity setting in. I think we’re just a better team, so I’m looking forward to attacking it head on.”

This is somewhat of a similar situation to the Lakers’ playoff run last year with two consecutive road games. In each of the first two rounds the Lakers won Game 1 on the road before falling in Game 2 and that is an outcome the team can’t afford on Tuesday.

Even though a loss on Tuesday doesn’t end the season, Russell wants the Lakers to take care of business and not have to go to a winner-take-all contest:

“Heck yeah. We don’t want to play again. We can easily lose and still have a chance, but those teams that are waiting for us to go play them at home, I’d rather us take care of business now than kill ourselves and drain it a little before we go into the ones that really matter. I like where we’re at, take care of business and go home and prepare for whoever we got to play.”

Of course a win would set up a Western Conference Finals rematch against the defending champion Denver Nuggets, who have just had the Lakers’ number over the past couple seasons. But that isn’t on the mind of Russell or the Lakers.

This team is focused on getting the job done on Tuesday so they can have as much time as possible to prepare for the playoffs, regardless of who stands opposite of them.

Lakers’ LeBron James not worried about D’Angelo Russell’s recent shooting struggles

One thing that will greatly improve the Lakers’ chances of leaving New Orleans with a second straight win is a big night from D’Angelo Russell. But before the regular season finale, Russell had three straight games shooting under 30% from the field.

Even still, LeBron James wasn’t worried about the point guard finding his shooting stroke, and that he did in New Orleans.

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