The Los Angeles Lakers lost their 19th game of the 2015-16 NBA season on Wednesday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center, but a considerable amount of progress was made on the basketball floor. Rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell came into his own leading the team late in the game with some clutch shots down the stretch.
One key element to Russell’s success on the floor on Wednesday was having Kobe Bryant watching and coaching from the sidelines in the fourth quarter opposed to playing alongside him. Bryant didn’t play a minute in the fourth quarter and watched the rookie flourish in the leadership role with the game on the line.
The Lakers may have fallen short in overtime to the Timberwolves, but Russell was soaking up the knowledge while running the show in the fourth quarter and overtime. On TWCSportsNet, Russell said Bryant was coaching through the process in overtime via Lakers Nation reporter Serena Winters:
D’Angelo on last shot in OT: "Kobe was coaching me thru it the whole time he was just saying you’ve got that mid-range whenever you want it"
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) December 10, 2015
Russell’s play in the fourth quarter was impressive to say the least. The rookie kept the Lakers alive in the final period and ultimately forced overtime with a game-tying shot over Andrew Wiggins.
Although the Lakers lost in overtime, the 19-year-old finished with a career-high 23 points and may have gained some confidence from the coaching staff. Russell may no longer be a starter, but made an impression with his performance against Minnesota.
As for Kobe, the veteran guard played only 25 minutes in the loss to the Timberwolves. Bryant averaged 31.3 minutes per game heading into this matchup on the road in Minnesota but deferred to the younger players on Wednesday night.
With Russell proving to be a force to be reckoned with in the fourth quarter, it’ll be interesting to see if the rookie will be finishing games more often. Julius Randle also had a solid performance against the Timberwolves with 20 points and 12 rebounds despite coming off the bench for a second straight game.
Head coach Byron Scott may finally be coming around on trusting these young players late in games. Russell and Randle will likely continue to come off the bench as Coach Scott has said, but they may end up playing more minutes if they can continue to produce.