The Los Angeles Lakers finally ended their eight-game losing streak with a 122-110 victory over the Phoenix Suns. Head coach Luke Walton was surely happy as all six of the Lakers’ young players scored in double-figures, but it was second-year point guard D’Angelo Russell leading the way.
Russell scored 28 points to go along with four rebounds, three assists, three steals, and no turnovers and was extremely vocal throughout the night. His leadership was not lost on Walton or rookie Brandon Ingram who spoke about it after the win via Lakers Nation reporter Serena Winters:
Luke Walton on D'Angelo Russell: "Definitely the leader of the group out there tonight."
Brandon Ingram on DLo: "head of the snake."
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) March 10, 2017
Many fans may have been rooting for a loss as the Lakers victory moved them closer to moving up in the standings and thus, lessening the chances of retaining their top-3 protected draft pick, but this was truly a landmark victory for these young Lakers.
Russell may have been the ‘head of the snake’ as Ingram said, but all of the young core contributed. Both Ingram (14 points, six rebounds, three assists) and Julius Randle (13, eight, and four) filled up the box score. Off the bench, Jordan Clarkson continued his strong play with 19 points, Larry Nance Jr. poured in 13 points and eight rebounds, and Ivica Zubac added 14 points and two blocks.
No Lakers young player has faced more scrutiny than Russell who has really divided the fan base over the last couple of seasons. Walton and Magic Johnson have mentioned Russell becoming more of a leader on this team and he showed signs of that in this win. If that level of communication and play continues for the rest of the season it will go a long way to silencing his critics.