After an elongated time off the court, the Los Angeles Lakers made good on four days rest, using a strong second half to upend the Denver Nuggets at home Tuesday night, 120-116.
Behind stellar performances from Nick Young, D’Angelo Russell and Ivica Zubac, the Lakers out-lasted the Nuggets to earn their 17th win of the season, matching their total from 2015-16.
Ivica Zubac continues to prove he’s the real deal
Ivica Zubac has seen his role increase as well as his minutes in recent games and he’s shown very few signs of slowing down, if any. Tonight, Zubac closed the game down the stretch and hit some crucial shots, finishing the night with 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting.
As important, he helped free up Russell for a couple of big plays in the fourth with bone-crushing screens. Those type of little things are often not noted in the stat sheet or box score, but will help him continue to earn minutes.
D’Angelo Russell is back
If there were any signs that Russell would be less than 100 percent after returning tonight from his injury, they were quickly swept aside. Russell played a team-high 34 minutes and finished with 22 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.
The game marks his first time finishing with a double-double including assists, a great sign for the Lakers and for Russell’s development. The Lakers are night and day with Russell on the court and the more he can be out there, the better for the Lakers going forward.
This is how the “tanking” should look
When told the Lakers should tank, many fans rejected the notion vigorously. However, tonight is an example of what the “tanking” should look like.
Russell played the most minutes of the team. Clarkson and Ingram each played 20 minutes despite having rough nights. Zubac closed the game late. And most importantly, the Lakers experimented with some weird lineups that, in the end, worked!
The word “tanking” has some bad connotations with it, but even with tonight’s win, the Lakers are six games out of the playoffs. Use tonight as an example of how to play the final 31 games and it’ll be the perfect way to end the season.