Russell Puts On Show In Loss to Kings
LAS VEGAS — D’Angelo Russell has collected buckets before — especially recently in 33- and 21-point games against Denver this preseason. But he flashed an even more robust offensive arsenal against Sacramento Thursday, piling up 31 points and 11 assists in the Lakers’ 116-104 loss.
In 13 games with at least 20 points as a rookie last season, Russell added at least seven assists only once. In fact, he only topped five assists nine times, regardless of point total. But the Lakers’ point guard was able to get his own while simultaneously setting up teammates against the Kings.
“He’s really slowed down,” Jordan Clarkson said. “He lets things come to him. He’s been able to get us into plays, make plays for other people (and) at the same time get his own shots and score baskets. He’s really coming into that role as a point guard and helping us lead the team."
Head coach Luke Walton called the game Russell’s most “complete” on the offensive end so far. Walton also expressed optimism about his defense eventually catching up, but progress on the other side was evident by crafty moments like an inbounds-skip pass to Luol Deng and Russell’s own perimeter shooting.
The 20-year-old shot 10-of-14 from the field and a toasty 5-of-6 on 3-pointers — marking a stark contrast from his 0-for-9 clip on triples in Tuesday’s loss to Portland.
“I definitely play my game because I know I’m capable of making those shots,” said Russell, who added two steals in 33 minutes played. “My teammates know that I’m capable of those shots. If I was making those shots (on Tuesday), I feel like it would have been a different outcome. I wasn’t making them and we still almost won.”
As he has done often recently, Russell began the game already in a zone, scoring 10 points in the first quarter alone. He really heated up in the third, tallying 13 points and four assists.
After his latest outburst, the sophomore is now fifth in the NBA in preseason scoring with 20.2 points per game — trailing only Devin Booker (21.5), Enes Kanter (21.3), James Harden (21.0) and Damian Lillard (20.8).
While Russell dominated for the Lakers, he was countered by an expected foe.
Journeyman forward Anthony Tolliver — who averaged 5.3 points for Detroit last year — hit Stephen Curry mode by scoring 21 points on a perfect 7-of-7 mark from beyond the 3-point line. For good measure, the eight-year veteran even added six rebounds and four assists.
Tolliver led a Kings offense that shot 58.7 percent from the field and hit 13-of-21 (61.9 percent) from deep.
Limiting fouls has been an area that Walton has constantly called for improvement in this preseason, and while Sacramento only shot 19 free throws he would have liked some more aggression from his squad.
“I think we need to realize that not fouling doesn’t mean: ‘Just let them shoot,’” Walton said.
The Kings pushed ahead of Los Angeles early but really did some damage in the second quarter, pushing their lead to 18 at halftime.
The Lakers’ second unit, which had been the team’s most successful through four exhibitions, was outdone by Sacramento’s, as evidenced by second-overall pick Brandon Ingram, who entered the game with a team-best +39 plus/minus and left with it down to +12.
“We didn’t get that normal spark from the second unit that we’ve seen all preseason,” Walton said. “But the third quarter they came out and really competed and showed what they could do when they’re all on the same page.”
With Russell paving the way, the Lakers tied the game twice in a third period that saw them shoot 14-of-20 and outscore their opponent, 36-20.
But that was quickly washed away in the fourth, as Sacramento blitzed them with a 24-10 opening run.
“We’re young, we’re getting better — but we’re not good to the point where we can have those lapses,” said Julius Randle, who had six points, 10 rebounds and five assists. “We have to bring it every night energy wise.”
DeMarcus Cousins, Omri Casspi and Matt Barnes all rested for Sacramento. … Clarkson scored 18 points with three 3-pointers. … Darren Collison (20 points, seven assists) and Rudy Gay (19 points, nine rebounds, seven assists) helped fuel the Kings’ win. … A crowd of 8,905 attended at T-Mobile Arena.
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