Los Angeles Lakers starting guard D’Angelo Russell struggled during the Play-In Game victory over his former Minnesota Timberwolves. He finished the game with two points on 1-for-9 shooting, but did rack up eight assists.
Due to his poor shooting, Russell played just 24 minutes and played just 19 seconds in overtime. Dennis Schroder was the guard Darvin Ham turned to in crunch time, and it paid off for L.A., as Schroder was arguably the Lakers’ best player in the final minutes of regulation and overtime.
But as the Lakers prepare to face the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, Russell is not worried about his ability to impact the team positively. He believes he just needs the opportunity to get out of slumps during games, according to Dan Woike of The L.A. Times:
“I think I can get it going at any point in the game. I just got to be there to do it,” Russell said after the team practiced Friday. “If I’m not in the game, coach felt a different route, I’ve got to live with that. But if he did come with me at the end of the game, I could easily … make 10 shots in a row. Just that type of a player.
“… We needed to win, honestly. We needed to win. For me to dwell on it and be upset or confidence low, I don’t think that’s the right approach. Definitely want to do anything and everything I can do to not be in that position in the future.”
Russell focused on the other ways he contributed to the Lakers during the Play-In Game, putting a spotlight on the eight assists he had in those 24 minutes.
“I try to show that I’m that type of player. I could’ve had 20 assists that night. Could’ve had 15 assists that night. If I’m not making shots, I can still control the game. Simple as that,” Russell said. “If I’m making shots, the game’s probably over. So, just knowing that I’m that type of player, not losing any confidence with whether coach doesn’t decide to go with me or if he does. Just knowing that I’m that type of player.
“And people that know, know.”
The Lakers are absolutely going to need a confident and effective version of Russell if they want to go on a run during these playoffs. Schroder was strong during the Play-In Game, but is also dealing with a few nagging injuries that held him out of the final games of the regular season.
L.A. is five-deep at the guard position with Russell, Schroder, Austin Reaves, Malik Beasley and Lonnie Walker IV. But rotations tend to tighten in the postseason, and teams rarely find minutes for five guards in a series. Russell can avoid any temptation to go deeper into the bench with a return to form against the Grizzlies.
LeBron James breaks down Grizzlies roster
While the Lakers will certainly do more in-depth research, LeBron James gave a bit of insight into his thoughts on the Grizzlies roster following the Play-In Game.
James went player by player and discussed the strengths of nearly the entire Grizzlies roster, touching on Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., Dillon Brooks, Tyus Jones, Desmond Bane, Xavier Tillman and Luke Kennard.
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