Calm and fast at the same time.
That’s how D’Angelo Russell can move with the basketball in his hands, patiently navigating defenses before hitting where he wants to go.
Speed is deceptive, things happen faster than you think.
That’s how the game was played on Russell’s return, quick and devastating strikes that took the direction of the game and fired with great precision.
And the Lakers point guard was behind the wheel, whizzing toward LA
Russell was in the midst of the biggest runs, making transition threes and assists, that turned the game against the Lakers in the second and fourth quarters.
He made five 3-pointers and scored 28 points to lead the Lakers to a 122-112 win in a game in which they trailed by at least 12 in each half.
“That’s why he’s here,” coach Darvin Ham said.
With five Lakers scoring in double figures, the team endured big games from Scottie Barnes (32 points) and OG Anunoby (31 points on 12-of-14 shooting).
Anthony Davis took just seven shots and scored just eight points while being chased by the Raptors defense. He made a jumper with 46.6 seconds left to seal the Lakers’ third straight victory.
Lakers’ Austin Reaves, top center, drives to the basket against the Toronto Raptors in the first half. Reaves finished with 18 points.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)
“It just shows the character that he has,” Austin Reaves said. “He was just as happy to score eight points today as he was after scoring 39.”
The Lakers’ depth dominated, with Wenyen Gabriel finishing with a plus-19. It was the lowest plus-minus of any bench player who played for the Lakers on Friday night.
The Lakers made 19 free throws and allowed just 22 fourth-quarter points, but were fueled by Russell’s comeback.
“His size, his skill set, his brain,” Ham said before the game when asked about what Russell brings to the floor. “I think he’s a really talented basketball player and you have to hold him accountable. He’s a smart defensive player, so he’s just another piece that we’re really, really excited about, and people got an early taste of what he brings. Coming off injury is great timing with LeBron’s situation. But we’re expecting that big addition and we’re hoping it’s a bit of a spark plug for us.”
After a slow start where the Lakers quickly fell behind by 15, Russell went on a 21-5 run in the second quarter, showing why the team valued the trade deadline.
His return also energized Dennis Schroder, who moved to the bench and was able to give more while being asked less, another player and baller back on the ground.
Without Russell, Schroder’s offense took a serious hit, with the attrition of the offense significantly eroded.
But on Friday, he played with more pace and burst, something Ham said he hoped to see before the game.
“It’s hard when you’re the only regular point guard in the lineup,” Ham said. “To have (Russell) go out there and see that early surge from Dennis and be able to know what we need to do, what we need to fix or what we need to hold on to when Dennis automatically comes into the game, it’s definitely a nice luxury to have (Russell) back in the lineup now.” being there. Just that one-two punch. So when he sits down. we have to bring in another orchestrator and arrange and tune us.”
Schroder was the fastest off the ball, grabbing four steals while making 23.
“That energy rubs off on everyone else,” Reaves said.
And with the Lakers’ offense stuck in neutral in the third against Toronto’s size and strength, Reaves kept them close enough. He fired up the crowd later in the middle for a two-handed slam down the middle of the court.
“We put in a really good effort,” Reaves said. “…We had to make a couple of adjustments and play harder.”
The Lakers went on a 32-11 run between the third and fourth to turn the game around one last time.
“We always say, ‘Don’t get discouraged. Get more competitive,'” Ham said.