The Los Angeles Lakers squeezed by the Orlando Magic with a 106-103 crunch time victory, and the star of the game was point guard D’Angelo Russell. Russell finished with a game-high 28 points and eight assists, coming up with huge buckets in the fourth quarter to help lift the Lakers over Orlando.
Russell had made it a point this offseason and during training camp to make necessary improvements so that he would no longer be benched for crunch time situations like he was at times during the 2023 Playoffs. And performances like Monday’s go a long way toward ensuring his spot in the final five.
Russell spoke about his performance and didn’t see anything different from his previous efforts this season other than making shots that he had been missing at other points.
“I mean, just a similar. Similar from game to game, just missing shots, I think, find a way to impact the game by not just missing or making shots. So did that, and tonight I just made shots.”
Russell had 12 points in the fourth quarter alone, helping secure the victory. When asked what made him so aggressive, the Lakers point guard again kept it simple.
“Nothing. I just got shots and made them. Simple as that,” Russell said. “I made shots, I know what I’m capable of. I know I trust my craft at all times. So just making shots makes the game a little easier.”
The Lakers guard had a highlight reel dunk that solidified a quality performance. He joked about the moment after the game.
“Surprisingly, DLo dunked the ball. I mean, I always make small bets with my teammates and things like that. Always say I dunk when it matters and things like that. But I don’t know, it took me a lot to find myself and make my mind up to even attempt to dunk it, especially with him trying to contest it. I can honestly say I got lucky. … He got lucky. So if you guys can continue to try me, we’ll see what happens.”
Russell believes that performances like this and securing wins at this point in the season will work wonders for the team as they continue to grow alongside one another this season.
“I mean, it’s pretty self-explanatory. When you get that time, you figure it out. I continue to stress it. But this is what you guys see as a team figuring it out. This is the product that we’ll be in a month or two from now. So every game matters. Every crunch situation matters. Every practice matters, so we’re figuring it out.”
The Lakers are getting useful experience playing in crunch time this early in the season. And Russell is getting more opportunity to show that he may be a different player this season than he has been in year’s past.
Darvin Ham digging in to figure out rotation
A big step for the Lakers right now is to figure out a more consistent rotation moving forward. The team’s depth is absolutely a positive, but it means more lineup combinations and potential players being ousted from the rotation for Darvin Ham.
“At the end of the day, making a decision, things like my rotation. We got to really dig into that and really figure out and really take a close look and make sure guys are in rhythm. We have a great collection of players and I played in this league. When you know when you’re going in, who you’re playing with, that matter. So buckling down on our rotation, I’ll start there.”
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