Russell Drops 21 in Loss at Summer League Finale

The Lakers entered the final quarter of their 2015 Summer League run facing a seven-point deficit to the Utah Jazz. Then D’Angelo Russell — who had shot 5-for-14 across the first three periods — showed why the Lakers selected him with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Russell found his rhythm against the Utah defense by knocking down four straight mid-range jumpers. He later added a layup off a pass from Julius Randle, keying L.A.’s late rally with 5-of-6 shooting in the game’s final frame.

With 1:37 remaining, Jabari Brown continued what Russell started by sinking his third 3-pointer of the night — a contested shot clock-beater — that trimmed Utah’s lead to 78-76. Though Brown hit another shot to shrink that deficit back down to two points just 37 seconds later, the Jazz managed to ice their 84-78 victory with four unanswered free throws.

The loss stamped a 1-4 record on the Lakers’ run at the Las Vegas Summer League.

“I think we all expected them to be better, but we all have to understand that they’re all very young and very new to this,” head coach Byron Scott said. “I think it’s good, in a sense, that they got a little bit of a rude awakening as well, (to know) how tough this league is and how tough it’s going to be.”

Though he finished with just one assist, Russell — who averaged 5.8 turnovers in the four games prior — gave the ball away only three times. And despite the final verdict, this last Summer League game offered Russell a chance to shine, which he took to the tune of a game-high 21 points on 10-of-20 shooting and four rebounds.

“I feel like it was the same shots I was getting all week,” Russell said. “I just kind of capitalized and started making them. I give Coach (Mark Madsen) a lot of credit for putting me in the position to capitalize and keep being aggressive.”

While Russell characterized his Summer League showing as “not good,” Scott enjoyed seeing the way the 19-year-old’s approach changed by the end of the experience.

“I thought he got better tonight,” Scott said. “I thought the first two or three games he was pressing, trying to prove to everybody why he should be the No. 2 pick instead of just playing. I thought tonight he was much more relaxed.”

Black Doubles Up
No player made more out of his opportunities than Tarik Black, who racked up 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting. The Memphis native also hauled in a game-high 10 rebounds for L.A.’s only double-double in four Summer League contests.

2014 Class Represents
Arguably the two most impressive Summer League standouts, Randle and Jordan Clarkson each finished with solid outputs. Clarkson tallied 12 points (6-of-15), two blocks and a game-high four assists, while Randle pitched in 11 points (4-of-10) and five rebounds.

Though Randle — who was operating on a roughly 20-minute limit during his first competitive games since fracturing his tibia on Oct. 28 — constantly described himself as “frustrated,” he showed plenty of promise by consistently beating his man off the dribble, which led to open layup looks and passes to freed-up teammates.

“We have to take it a step at a time,” Scott said. “And with Julius, he understands that there’s a bigger picture than just the Summer League. This was to knock off some of the rust and get him back into playing basketball. We didn’t want to play him 35, 40 minutes a game and then he takes a step back.”

Clarkson, meanwhile, maintained a forward-facing approach at the end of the Las Vegas experience.

“(We’re) just learning to play together,” he said. “We’re all young. We got a lot to grow and a lot to improve and work on. We’re just coming into training camp trying to improve on everything.”

Necessary Adjustments
Though the Lakers couldn’t pull out the win, they did manage to clean up one area that had plagued them throughout the first four games of Summer League. They entered Friday’s contest averaging 18.0 turnovers per game, but only had 11 against the Jazz.

However, two other facets of the game damaged their chances against Utah. L.A. allowed the Jazz to shoot 42 free throws — 26 more than the Lakers attempted themselves. The result was 33 points off foul shots for Utah, and only 10 for the purple and gold.

Meanwhile, L.A.’s bench was silent, as it was outscored by Utah’s, 30-4, and shot just 2-for-15 from the field.

Looking Ahead
The Lakers will officially regroup in the fall when they head to Honolulu for training camp. L.A.’s young core will get another crack at Utah then, as the Lakers will face the Jazz at the University of Hawaii on Oct. 4 and 6.