The Los Angeles Lakers started off 2017 the same way they ended 2016, with a loss. The Lakers fell to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night, but the team showed off a lot of fight and heart with a late run that almost brought them all the way back. Two of the main catalysts for that run were point guard D’Angelo Russell and power forward Julius Randle.
In one of his best games of the season Russell shot 50 percent from the field, finishing with 28 points, four rebounds, five assists, and zero turnovers. Randle struggled from the field, but still had a solid all-around game with 15 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three steals, and two blocks.
For Russell, the shooting was a welcome change as he has struggled recently. After the game, Randle spoke about Russell being too hesitant when shooting and just needing to be aggressive via Joey Ramirez of Lakers.com:
“I feel like (Russell) has been a little too hesitant with his shot, thinking a little too much,” said Randle, who had 15 points, nine rebounds and six assists. “I just told him to be aggressive and he just started being really aggressive and made a run and kept us in the game.”
Sunday’s game marked only the second time Russell has made at least 50 percent of his shots since he returned from a knee injury in mid-December. For the season he is shooting only 39.1 percent from the field, a disappointing number for someone who came into the league as a shooter.
As a young point guard, Russell is still learning how to properly balance his scoring and distributing. His teammate Randle has noticed his hesitation and pushed him to be more aggressive and it paid off. The fact that Randle took it upon himself to do that is a testament to his leadership ability.
Russell has a ton of potential as both a scorer and playmaker and he is barely scratching the surface right now. His game against the Raptors was a step in the right direction, but as is the case with all young players, he must now begin doing this consistently.