Russell Catches Fire in Overtime Loss

With the game on the line, the future Hall of Famer let the kids go at it, and they delivered.

D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle were heating up, so Kobe Bryant told head coach Byron Scott to keep him out of the game, instead letting the 19- and 20-year-olds finish L.A.’s comeback.

Russell, in particular, rose to the moment by scoring 21 of his career-high 23 points in the second half. The teenager even provided the first clutch moment of his career by banking in a game-tying, off-balance seven-footer while draped by Andrew Wiggins with 2.2 seconds left.

However, Russell and Roy Hibbert each missed opportunities to win the game in overtime, as L.A. fell in Minnesota, 123-122.

“(Bryant) said, ‘Coach, let them go. Let’s see what they do,’” Scott said. “I thought that was great on his part.”

Russell, who shot 8-of-20 and hit a trio of 3-pointers, agreed with his coach’s approval of Bryant.

“That’s an honor for him to say something like that knowing that he could’ve easily told Coach he wanted that shot just to add to his collection,” Russell said.

Bryant had some tightness in his legs at halftime, but Scott said that he was able to return to the game after checking out midway through the third quarter. Instead, the 17-time all-star advised his coach to let the young Lakers have a run at it.

Russell poured in 13 points in the fourth quarter alone, while Randle racked up his sixth double-double in seven games with 20 points and 12 rebounds.

In just their second game since being relegated from the starting lineup to the bench, both Russell and Randle supplied arguably their best performances as professionals. Their scoring outbursts fueled the Lakers’ season-high 68 points from reserves.

“You can’t worry about things you can’t control,” Randle said. “We’ve been talking back and forth constantly. We know what we mean to this team, so we know that we’re gonna be out there. We’ve just gotta go out there and play.”

After Russell forced overtime, Minnesota jumped out to a quick five-point lead. But Nick Young hit a driving bank shot for the game’s 14th and final tie with 75 seconds remaining.

Wiggins answered with a layup, then Randle hit one-of-two free throws. After a defensive stop, Russell’s 18-foot shot for the win could not find it’s way through the hoop.

After the final buzzer, Bryant walked off the floor with his arm around the 2015 second-overall pick.

“I said, ‘Man, listen: I’ve made plenty of them; I’ve missed plenty of them, too,” Bryant said. “‘That’s your first shot, but it won’t be your last. So on you go.’”

Fighting Fire with Fire
The Lakers shot a season-high 51.6 percent from the field, but Minnesota (9-12) stayed just as hot throughout.

In particular, Kevin Martin — who had just 32 points in his previous five games combined — followed his scoreless performance on Monday by erupting for 37 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter. The 32-year-old shot 14-of-27, while knocking down six of his nine 3-point attempts.

Meanwhile, first-overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns lived up to his selection by dropping 26 points (11-of-19) with 14 rebounds and three blocks.

“I think (the Timberwolves) have a great nucleus of young players,” Bryant said. “All their young players are very hard workers. They’ve done nothing but improve.”

The Lakers (3-19) shot 60.0 percent in the first half and — despite the added five minutes — tied their season-low with nine turnovers. But Minnesota got a few more chances from 14 offensive rebounds, which ended up making much of the difference.

Coach Kobe
Though Bryant has scoffed at the idea of coaching after his playing career is over, Randle left impressed by his demeanor in helping them from the bench. In particular, Bryant was constantly offering Russell advice at the game’s end.

“Kobe was coaching me through it the whole time,” Russell said. “He was just saying, ‘You’ve got that mid-range whenever you want it, so don’t forget about it.’”

Scott said that Bryant’s presence on the pine in the fourth quarter should be a more common sight on the backend of the season.

“Eventually it’s going to be kind of like this anyway,” Scott said. “There’s going to come a point in time, probably the second half of the season, where Kobe doesn’t play a lot in that fourth quarter just so these guys can grow. They’re probably gonna fall on their face a lot more times.”

Jordan Clarkson played only six minutes of the second half due to a sprained ankle, though it is not expected to be serious. ... Bryant finished with 11 points (5-of-13) in 25 minutes. … Young rejoined the rotation after being held out for most of the last four games. He replaced Metta World Peace. … A sellout crowd of 18,076 was on hand for Bryant’s last contest in Minnesota.

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