After learning of grandmother's death, D'Angelo Russell wins game for Lakers on last-second three-pointer

After he hit the shot, when the game ended with the Lakers on top, D'Angelo Russell ran amid all the joyous cacophony, through the shimmering streamers falling from the rafters, past nearly 19,000 screaming people who had no idea what this meant to him.

He ran right into his brothers' arms and they stayed there, celebrating and mourning Pamela Russell. She was their granny. They woke up Sunday morning to the news that she had died.


This was for her.

"She was a strong woman," Russell said in the locker room, still overcome. "She did a great job raising my dad. Piggybacking off that my dad did a great job raising his sons and his kids in general. Being a great father. That's what she was put on this Earth for."

Russell played the hero Sunday night for the Lakers as they beat the Minnesota Timberwolves, 110-109, on Russell's buzzer-beating three-pointer. His shot came off a rebound from a miss by Metta World Peace. It sailed through the air, bounced on the rim, then hung suspended in the air for a beat before falling through the net as if someone pulled it.

"That's just God, honestly," Russell said. "... For me to win the game with a game-winning shot, that's just God putting the cherry on top. A win would've been good enough."

Russell finished with 16 points on six-for-19 shooting. Tyler Ennis led the Lakers with 20 points as they improved to 25-55.

The Timberwolves' Andrew Wiggins scored 41 while Karl-Anthony Towns scored 40. It was the first time in Timberwolves history that two players had eclipsed 40 points each in a game, and all Towns could do when it ended was wave his hand in frustration.

Russell wasn't even sure he'd play on Sunday. He woke up that morning to a phone call from his father with their solemn family news. Russell wanted to fly home to Louisville, Ky., in the afternoon. He didn't want to use basketball to take his mind off it. He just wanted to go home. His family convinced him it was what she would have wanted.

Ultimately he agreed.

He and Lakers Coach Luke Walton arrived simultaneously at Staples Center two hours before tipoff and walked into the arena together. Walton listened as Russell told him how much his grandmother meant to him.

"You could tell he was hurt," Walton said. "You could tell it was painful for him. It wasn't easy to talk about but you could see how much love he had for her when he was speaking about her, which was kind of awesome to see. I don't know if he realized it or not. There was a lot of love he had for that woman."

Walton offered Russell whatever solace he could. He told him the team would do whatever he wanted. If the game grew too much to bear, he could come out at any time.

Russell never asked for that. His shot wasn't falling early in the game, but he stayed active defensively, even drawing a charge. Neither of the Timberwolves guards scored in the first half.

The Lakers led by eight points after one quarter, but only two at halftime. The Timberwolves opened the third quarter on a run; the Lakers recovered, and by the start of the fourth quarter, the Lakers trailed by two.

That's when World Peace entered the game to a raucous ovation. The crowed piqued in anticipation every time he seemed poised to shoot and he didn't disappoint them. World Peace made two three pointers and quickly had eight points. The Lakers trailed by four with 33.8 seconds left. A Julius Randle dunk cut that to two.


It was World Peace's chance, first, to play the hero on what might be his second-to-last game in a Lakers uniform, or perhaps the NBA after spending two decades in the league. He was open in the corner right in front of the Timberwolves' bench. He got the ball and shook his leg several times before taking a shot.

"I was thinking, 'How perfect is this?'" Walton said. "Metta World Peace is going to hit a game-winning shot."

World Peace missed, but what happened instead was even more perfect.

Randle grabbed the rebound. He kicked it out to Russell. Russell scored as time expired and ignited euphoria.

"I get goosebumps even talking about the way the game ended," Walton said.

Said Russell: "With the grace of God I made the shot."

His teammates engulfed him, and then he ran into the stands toward the people who mattered most. He knew then they were right; he was glad he played.

Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli