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D'Angelo Russell Takes Over to Lead Brooklyn Nets Comeback

Guard scores 27 of his career-high 44 points in fourth quarter

SACRAMENTO — D'Angelo Russell's breakout All-Star season has been five months of the fourth-year guard bursting past his old boundaries, pushing his talent to new heights and taking his team along with him.

Two nights after posting the first 30-plus point double-double of his career, Russell did it again in even more spectacular fashion with a performance for the ages as the Brooklyn Nets came back from 28 points down to beat the Sacramento Kings, 123-121.

"Man, he was locked in," said Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. "You guys have been watching this all year. When he locks in and he's on fire, there ain't many people that can stop him. It's amazing to see him do that. I'm proud of him."

The way Jared Dudley described Russell's show was high praise indeed: "D'Lo went Kobe out there."

When Russell's outrageous fourth quarter was done with 27 points on 10-for-15 shooting, including 4-for-7 from 3-point range, he had a career-high 44 points plus 12 assists. His sixth and final 3-pointer of the game even set a new franchise record for threes made in a season — 202.

"You're looking for him to make the play," said Dudley. "Now, he found me twice on two threes. If someone's that hot, you're going to give it to him in space. I thought for the most part he made the right plays; finding Rondae underneath the basket, pick and roll. But when someone's that hot, even the weak side is looking at him, 'should I help, should I do this?' because he was on a tear. Credit him to know when to make the right passes and when to shoot the ball and be aggressive. I think with a 2-on-1 fast break he shot a three and missed it. Give D'Lo credit offensively just maturing and knowing when to pick and choose his spots."

Russell's big night helped carry the Nets back from a 25-point hole at the opening of the fourth quarter. Hollis-Jefferson chipped into the Sacramento lead with some baskets early in the quarter, but then Russell knocked down two 3-pointers less than 30 seconds apart and suddenly the Nets were within 10 points with plenty of time remaining, more than seven minutes.

"If there's time on the clock, the game's never over," said Russell. "We had the whole quarter to reflect on that. We started getting stops, they started missing shots and we started getting out running in transition. The shots that weren't falling for us early were falling for us at the end."

The Kings finally scored again, but then the Nets reeled off seven straight points to get within five points, capping their 26-6 run to open the quarter. The two free throws Russell hit to bring the Nets within 109-104 were just the first of 16 consecutive Brooklyn points he would score. His drive to the rim would make it a one-point game with 1:30 to go.

"I feel like, a lot of players are capable of doing that," said Russell. "Once you get in that groove, it's kind of hard to get you out of it. No matter what defense a team throws at you, you're doing to find a way to get it done. We were struggling earlier. Toward crunch time we started to figure out what was working for us. It was too hard to stop."

In the early going, including the start of the second half, Russell was part of a Brooklyn first unit that wasn't up to par, and Nets coach Kenny Atkinson let them all know about it, including Russell.

The point guard responded, in a big way.

"The great thing about D'Angelo, you can coach him," said Atkinson. "I was hard on him tonight in the beginning. A couple of bad shots, I called a timeout. A rogue defensive possession, I called another timeout to yell at him. He responds. He never comes back at you. He says, 'OK, coach,' and he gets better. That's a pleasure when your All-Star that you can coach and accepts coaching and doesn't cop an attitude and accepts it, that's huge. That's leadership to me."

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