Maybe this “new” Lakers offense is exactly what D’Angelo Russell needed for his game to prosper and to reach career heights.
Well, it’s really not so new for Russell and his young teammates, but these different sets the Lakers have been running the last two games led to a career night for the rookie guard.
Russell scored a career-best 39 points to lead the Lakers to a 107-101 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night at Staples Center.
He made a career-high eight three-pointers in a career-high 12 attempts in helping the Lakers end a losing streak at eight games. He made 14 of 21 shots overall.
After the game, Russell mentioned how his father, Antonio Russell, sent him a rare text before the game.
“He was just like, ‘Are you hungry? I was like, ‘Hungry?’ He was like, “Eat,’” said Russell, referring to his father’s wanting him to feast on the opponent. “I was like, ‘OK. I know what you mean.’ I give credit to that.”
Russell capped his impressive night by finishing off the Nets in style.
He got a rebound off a Thaddeus Young miss and casually brought the ball up court, surveying the defense before pulling up for a three-pointer for a 100-94 Lakers lead with 53.2 seconds left.
Russell ran downcourt with a smirk on his face, relishing his moment.
But he wasn’t done.
Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson passes the ball behind him while under pressure from Nets forward Thaddeus Young during the first half of a game on March 1.(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
Lakers rookie D’Angelo Russell celebrates after making a three-point shot against the Nets during a game on March 1 at Staples Center. The Lakers beat the Nets, 107-101.(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
Rookie D’Angelo Russell had 39 points against the Nets in the Lakers’ 107-101 victory over Brooklyn on March 1 at Staples Center.(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
Brooklyn Nets guard Sean Kilpatrick shoots as Lakers guard Lou Williams, right, defends during the first half of a game on March 1.(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
Brooklyn Nets forward Willie Reed, right, and Lakers forward Brandon Bass reach for a rebound during the first half of a game on March 1 at Staples Center.(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
After Wayne Ellington made a three-pointer, Russell answered with a high-arching three-pointer with 30 seconds left that basically sealed the deal for the Lakers.
Once again, Russell strolled downcourt and engaged the fans, pointing to his left arm — he’s left-handed.
“I give credit to God, obviously,” Russell said. “And to be honest, I was running out of celebrations.”
Russell is the first Lakers rookie since Elgin Baylor in 1959 to score at least 39 points in a game.
Russell, Jordan Clarkson (16 points, seven rebounds, seven assists) and Julius Randle (14 points and 13 rebounds) were a part of the Lakers’ young core that ran some of the plays they now are running in the summer league in Las Vegas.
Russell grabbed his right foreman while shooting free throws midway through the fourth quarter, but stayed in the game, refusing to come out with the way his night was going and because the Lakers were short-handed.
Not having Kobe Bryant (sore right shoulder) for the second straight game allowed rookie Anthony Brown to start again.
But Brown had just two points, missing five of his six shots.
The Lakers lost reserve guard Lou Williams for the rest of the game in the second quarter to a strained left hamstring. He didn’t travel with the team after the game to Denver and will be examined Wednesday.
But that allowed Russell to get more playing time (35 minutes, 19 seconds) and it seemed to help him thrive that much more.
“I was trying to pick and choose my spots,” Russell said. “It was just my night and it worked out good for me.”
LAKERS AT DENVER
When: 6 p.m. PST.
Where: Pepsi Center.
On the air: TV: TWC SportsNet, TWC Deportes; Radio: 710, 1330.
Records: Lakers 12-49, Nuggets 23-37.
Record vs. Nuggets: 1-1.
Update: If nothing else this season, the Nuggets can still rebound the basketball. They collect 44.6 rebounds a game, ninth-best in the NBA. They do a lot of damage on the offensive boards, gathering 11.5 a game, tied for fourth-best in the league. Forward Kenneth Faried leads the team in rebounds, averaging 8.8 per game, including 3.5 on the offensive end, which is sixth-best in the league.
Follow Broderick Turner on Twitter @BA_Turner