Lost in the shuffle of the outstanding performances by Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura in Game 1 against the Memphis Grizzlies was Los Angeles Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell having a bounce-back game himself after an awful showing in the team’s Play-In Game victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
On that night, Russell hit just 1-of-9 shots to finish with two points and eight assists. But the Lakers guard was much better in Game 1 against the Grizzlies, finishing with 19 points, four rebounds and seven assists while knocking down three shots from deep.
It was a major boost for the Lakers and showed the kind of impact Russell is capable of having. When asked what caused him to get back on track, Russell simply relied and believed in his preparation for the game, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“Just locked in. Since I woke up just try to be locked in with my approach and let my craft takeover from there. The preparation, depend on that, and this is the result.”
Oftentimes, players can try to change things when they are struggling to knock down shots or are going through an overall slump. But Russell chose to simply lock in even more, knowing how intense things are in the postseason and believed in the skillset that has allowed him to have a good NBA career so far.
Russell was one of many Lakers to have some big moments in this contest as they showed off their depth, which is what he believes makes this Lakers team so dangerous:
“Team effort. Team effort. I think everybody was excited for everybody in this one. And everybody played their part, contributed and we got it done, simple as that. Everybody’s capable on our team and I think that’s what makes us scary.”
The improvement of depth on this team has truly changed the trajectory and ceiling of the Lakers this season. To that point, when Russell had a bad night in the Play-In, Dennis Schroder stepped up in a big way. Hachimura might not have another 29-point night in Game 2, but maybe Malik Beasley or Troy Brown Jr. have a hot shooting game.
The front office has surrounded Anthony Davis and LeBron James with numerous players who bring different things to the table and can all have a big impact. Russell finding his groove in these playoffs makes the Lakers even more of a team to fear.
LeBron James says Lakers must clean up mistakes in Game 2
As impressive as Game 1 was for the Lakers as a whole, it is still just one game and the Lakers have a lot of work to do if they plan on escaping the first round of the playoffs. LeBron James understands that and knows the Lakers still have plenty of room to be much better in Wednesday’s Game 2.
LeBron pointed to the Lakers’ turnovers, adding he is the main catalyst on that front, as well as shoring up the rebounding even more, as areas the Lakers can improve upon. Knowing the Grizzlies will be desperate not to drop both games at home to start the series, James is already eyeing exactly what the Lakers need to do in order to keep up the momentum.
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