On a night when the final result basically didn’t matter, D’Angelo Russell showed all he needed to in the first half. Russell scored 19 points across the first two quarters, finishing with 21 in 24 minutes during the Lakers’ 101-97 preseason loss to Denver.
Russell's head coach, Luke Walton, said that he was trying too hard to make plays for others early in the game. After giving Russell the OK to fire away, he took full advantage.
Within a 54-second burst toward the end of the second quarter, Russell hit a corner 3-pointer, 13-foot jumper and pull-up triple in an 8-0 individual run that turned a two-point deficit into a 53-47 lead, giving him an excuse to pull out his trademark "ice in my veins" celebration.
Denver’s point guard, Emmanuel Mudiay — who was taken five spots below Russell (No. 2) in last year’s draft — conceded that Russell outplayed him after finishing with four points on 2-of-10 shooting with six assists.
“He got the best of me tonight, but we get to play them again on Sunday,” Mudiay said of Russell, who added five assists and four rebuonds. “It’s going to be fun to go up against him all the time because we were the first two point guards picked and whatnot.
“He’s a good player and I love playing against him (and) he loves playing against me, so it should be fun.”
But the Lakers’ eight-point advantage at the end of three quarters wouldn’t last once Walton emptied his bench.
Los Angeles was outscored in the fourth, 29-17, when the closing lineup of Julian Jacobs, Anthony Brown, Travis Wear, Thomas Robinson and Yi Jianlian shot a combined 3-of-14.
However, Walton was quick to put the blame on the team as a whole rather than just the reserves. He highlighted the 30 free throws attempted and 15 offensive rebounds grabbed by Denver.
Walton also didn’t like how the team gave up 32 first-quarter points, and Jordan Clarkson — whom Walton called “maybe our most consistent perimeter defender since the start of camp” — acknowledged that the team has work to do on that side.
“We sucked defensively as a team last year, to be honest with you,” Clarkson said. “I’m just trying to help be the catalyst on that end.”
Ingram Makes a Dent
Second-overall pick Brandon Ingram had another rough start after going 0-for-5 in the Lakers’ preseason opener on Tuesday. The second-overall pick missed his first four shots of the night before finishing off a pretty lob from Marcelo Huertas early in the fourth quarter.
“He still looks like he’s rushing his shot a little bit, which I’m not concerned with at all,” Walton said. “The kid shoots lights-out in practice every day. I think once the game slows down a little bit for him, he’ll be fine.”
Ingram followed his dunk two minutes later with another basket — this one much luckier.
Clarkson, who finished with 15 points and four steals, hit a layup, then swiped the inbounds pass and kicked it out to Ingram, who seriously misjudged how far the hoop was.
Nonetheless, his 3-point attempt unintentionally banked in, giving the Lakers a 10-point lead with nine minutes remaining.
“I actually thought I was gonna miss it,” Ingram said. “But when it went in I just knew I was desperately needing a basket.”
Though Russell claimed that Ingram “called bank,” the rookie admitted that he didn’t, but it’s all the same to his teammate, Julius Randle.
“It counts in the stats book, so that’s all that matters,” he said.
Metta World Peace started in place of Luol Deng (bruised knee), going scoreless in six minutes. Nick Young started the second half and scored six points in 10 minutes. … Will Barton tallied 20 points for Denver, while Jusuf Nurkic piled up 18 points and 14 rebounds. … Danilo Gallinari (rest), Kenneth Faried (rest) and Gary Harris (groin) all sat out for the Nuggets. … An audience of 16,461 attended at Staples Center.