LOS ANGELES—Last year D’Angelo Russell put the NBA on notice that he has ice in his veins. On Sunday, April 9, he proved it by hitting a game winning three against the Timberwolves (31-49) as time expired. The shot was a perfect way to honor his late grandmother. Early Sunday morning Russell received news that his grandmother passed away. He nearly missed the game, almost deciding to visit family instead of playing, but decided otherwise.
“Honestly, I knew that’s what my grandma would have wanted,” Russell said of his decision to play. “My dad, my brothers — everybody wanted me to play. I wanted to get away from basketball. I didn’t want to express myself through basketball, but that’s the only option I kind of had, so I tried to take advantage of it.”
Taking advantage is exactly what he did. With 12 seconds left, and the Lakers down two points, Metta World Peace had the ball. He scored eight points in the fourth quarter to bring the Lakers within two, but tonight wasn’t about him. Peace sent up a 3-pointer that could have given the Lakers a win, but instead clanked off the front of the rim right into the hands of Julius Randle. After hesitating, Randle sent the ball over to a wide open Russell who wasted no time getting the shot off.
The drama that ensued seemed like something ripped right out of a movie. The shot bounced around the rim and up, seeming to miss, but right as the final buzzer sounded the ball fell right back down inside the hoop, giving him a storybook ending to what must of been a tough game. His laser focus in the midst of adversity didn’t go unnoticed by teammates, including back up guard Tyler Ennis who scored a game high 20 points.
“He was encouraging, and as he was playing, I didn’t notice it,” Ennis said. “I thought he did a good job of locking in. It was a tough, tough day for him. Hopefully, it could brighten his day a little bit.”
Russell’s night overshadowed an amazing performance from Minnesota’s young athletic duo of Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Towns scored 40 points on 17-22 shooting, while grabbing 21 rebounds. Combined, the duo put up 81 points, as Wiggins chipped in 41 points. Minnesota’s scoring could not have been more lop-sided. Excluding a lay up from Ricky Rubio and Omri Casspi, only two other Timberwolves scored besides Wiggins and Towns. Rubio, who scored a career high 33 points in the previous match-up, was not able to experience any similar success. The lay-up was the only bucket he was able to make, missing his seven other shot attempts.
After winning their fourth straight game, the Lakers have ceded the second worst record in the NBA to the Phoenix Suns. Consequentially, Los Angeles only has a 50/50 chance of retaining their first round pick in this years draft. If the Lakers end up with a draft pick outside of the top three then it will be sent to the Philadelphia 76ers due to a previous trade.
Next up for both teams, the Timberwolves will be tasked with stopping record setting triple double king Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder (46-34). Meanwhile, the Lakers will face off against twin towers Demarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday, April 11.