D'Angelo Russell put a huge scare into Los Angeles Lakers fans when he turned his ankle and fell to the ground. Russell only lay there for what was probably a minute but felt like hours as apocalyptic predictions of a Lakers lottery picks' season being ended by a freak injury for the second consecutive year raced through the heads of Lakers fans everywhere.
Russell tried to play for one more possession before being helped off the floor by Lakers trainer Gary Vitti. X-Rays on Russell's ankle were thankfully negative, and the Lakers diagnosed him with a moderate ankle sprain, hopefully meaning that the injury will not become a serious issue long-term.
Less notable in the wake of the injury but still important: the made basket gave Russell 19 points in the second half, and 27 overall, to go with 4 assists and 2 steals in one of Russell's better offensive games of the season.
"I knew I couldn't go [after the injury]," a disappointed but confident Russell said after the loss. "They were up like 30 or whatnot, and we cut it and we got the lead, and we were clicking. I feel like I was hot, I probably would have hit some B.S. shot because I was making everything, so I feel like that was set for us to win but they kind of got away with it."
Russell is not too far off when he says that he was making everything, especially in a second half in which he made 7 of his 9 shots. Russell managed this efficiency not only with some hot three-point shooting, going 3-7 from behind the arc (42.9%) in the game, but also by forcing his way to the basket. The rambunctious rookie took 37.5% of his field goal attempts right at the basket on the night, a significant difference from his season average of 24.9%. That number ideally will tick higher as his career continues, but a 12.6% increase is a good start.
Russell was also finishing when he got to the cup, making 5 of his 6 attempts there against Sacramento. To do so he used a combination of "B.S." finishes while protecting the ball with his body, like the one on which he turned his ankle:
He also made an effort to attack in transition rather than slowing down and waiting for his teammates, going right to the basket here and finishing with another shifty fake:
Russell additionally demonstrated good timing as a cutter when playing off the ball, jumping back onto the court and directly under the basket at exactly the right moment when Kobe set him up for this tip in:
When Russell was able to mix up this finishing ability with his hot jumper, it made him a much more efficient player on one of his best nights of the season. This will be something Russell is able to do more as he grows more comfortable with the physicality of NBA defenses and continues to put on muscle. And when he starts to put together scoring nights like this on a consistent basis?
"Y'all ain't seen nothing yet," proclaimed Russell after the game. "That's all I'm gonna say. They got lucky, the world hasn't seen anything yet."
All quotes transcribed via Time Warner Cable Sportsnet.