LOS ANGELES—After coming off the bench for the last three games, D’Angelo Russell made a roaring comeback to the starting lineup Sunday, March 19 as he scored a career high 40 points in a loss to the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers (46-23). His blistering field goal percentage, 63.6 percent, including an amazing 7-12 on 3-point attempts, allowed the Lakers (20-50) to stay in the game until Cleveland’s Big Three snatched victory from them.
The Lakers have had trouble staying competitive lately as they have lost five straight games. Russell’s hot shooting night helped buck that ignominious trend. The second year guard had been shooting only 32 percent during the past week while coming off the bench. In a starting role on Sunday night, he propelled Los Angeles to a 4-point halftime lead and at one point an 11 point fourth quarter advantage.
He started off scorching the Cavaliers with 18 points in the first quarter. He continued to set fire to the Cavs in the third quarter, scoring the last eight points of the quarter pushing their lead to 10 points going into the final quarter. The 21-year-old became the youngest player in franchise history to score 40 points in a regular season game. His marvelous performance caught the attention of Cleveland’s two biggest stars
“He’s a special player,” said four-time MVP Lebron James. “Russell was extremely hot tonight and those guys fed off of him.”
The man who was tasked with guarding him, Kyrie Irving, also had high praises for the former second overall pick in 2015.
“He’s a great young player,” Irving said of Russell. “We’ve been playing against him for a few years in the league, understanding what he means to the Lakers.”
Cleveland’s Big Three, James, Irving and Kevin Love were the solution to the problems that Russell gave the defending champs. Irving had a special night as well, scoring a game high 46 points on 15-21 field goals including 6-10 for from three point range. With approximately four minutes left in the game he scored the 3-pointer that put the Cavs up for good. James had another all-around game as he poured in 34 points, six rebound and seven assists. Love chipped in 20 points and 15 rebounds.
The Lakers will look to end the losing streak on Tuesday, March 21 as they take on their co-tenants in Staples Center, the Los Angeles Clippers.