For the first three quarters of Thursday night’s meeting between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings, it was exactly like the first time they met this season. The Kings were dismantling the Lakers, building a 27-point lead at one point. But unlike the first contest between the two teams, Los Angeles showed tremendous resolve this time around.
After missing Tuesday’s game due to an illness, D’Angelo Russell returned in a big way. The No. 2 overall pick in last year’s NBA Draft led the fourth quarter charge that saw the Lakers take the lead down the stretch after facing what seemed to be a deficit that was insurmountable. The rookie finished with a career-high 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting, along with four assists.
Russell wasn’t the only player returning after a very brief absence, however. Kobe Bryant returned to the starting lineup after missing the previous three games because of a sore shoulder. Just like his 19-year-old teammate, Bryant also made a major impact, scoring 28 points on 10-of-18 shooting. Kobe led the Lakers in scoring despite not playing a single second in the fourth quarter as head coach Byron Scott elected to keep the same lineup that had gotten them back in the game on the court to finish. That changed when Russell rolled his ankle on a drive to the basket with 2:37 remaining. He would return to the game after the timeout, but was unable to finish.
Jordan Clarkson came alive in the second half to finish with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists while Brandon Bass was everywhere for the purple and gold. The savvy veteran connected on all three of his shot attempts to finish with 10 points, along with six rebounds, four assists, five steals and two blocks. Bass has continued to improve throughout the season, and the way he stuffed the stat sheet on Thursday showcased that.
In the end, the Lakers fumbled away their slim lead in the final minutes, but provided fans with a promising and exciting glimpse of the future in what was an outstanding comeback attempt.
In case fans weren’t excited enough over his performance, Russell gave everyone even more reason to look forward to the future. When asked if tonight was his best game so far, he replied with, “Ya’ll ain’t seen nothing yet.”
*Quote transcribed from Time Warner Cable SportsNet.
*Statistics provided by NBA.com.