It was another loss for the Los Angeles Lakers, but it was again encouraging to see the growth of second overall pick D’Angelo Russell. After a tight first half, the Lakers collapsed in the second half, leading to a blowout victory for the San Antonio Spurs, 109-87.
But at this point, we should neglect the Lakers' losses, right?
Because the aforementioned Russell literally one-upped his performance from Wednesday night by recording a new career-high of 24 points to go along with six assists, six rebounds, and two steals, and that is exactly what the Lakers hopefuls are closely looking at. It seems like the 19-year-old is progressing as the season matures.
Russell was inserted into the starting lineup in place of the injured Jordan Clarkson who sat out due to an ankle ailment in his hometown of San Antonio. Being back with the starting unit, Kobe Bryant and the rest of the starters allowed Russell to orchestrate the offense which gave the rookie the freedom he has wanted.
"I felt pretty good. I’m not going to force anything either. I just kind of sit back and see what comes my way," Bryant said.
Despite another career night from Russell, the Lakers were able to get the W, failing to contain LaMarcus Aldridge and Patty Mills.
Aldridge, who was the free-agent piece the Lakers wanted this summer, came out on fire in the first quarter and concluded with 24 points, 11 rebounds, and three assists on 11 of 20 shooting.
But it was Mills who was the difference maker, as he was a major spark off San Antonio’s bench, scoring a season-high 22 points on 9 of 11 shooting. Rookie Jonathon Simmons provided plenty of energy off the pine as well, putting in nine points and bringing a lot of hustle.
Outside of Russell, Lou Williams was the only other Laker to play well tonight, adding 19 points, three rebounds, and two steals. Kobe Bryant finished with 12 points, six rebounds, and four assists on 5 of 12 shooting. Although Bryant started off hot, he cooled down as the game progressed but did not force the issue, allowing the young guys to get loose.
Julius Randle continued to come off the bench, and after back-to-back solid performances, he put up just four points and seven rebounds tonight, struggling from the field.
The Spurs shot a sizzling 53.7 percent from the field while the Lakers shot merely 40.9 percent. L.A. was also considerably out-rebounded, 49-36, and only had four fast break points on the night.
With this victory, the Spurs improved to 19-5 on the season and remain undefeated at home with a perfect 12-0 record. They will be back in action tomorrow night against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena at 8 pm ET.
The Lakers, meanwhile, fall to 3-20 and have lost five consecutive games and have dropped 12 of the last 13. They also have a game coming up tomorrow night against the Houston Rockets, which will be the final game of their eight-game road trip.