Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell drains game-winning basket, says adversity has simply ‘molded’ him into a ‘killer’

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The Los Angeles Lakers are in the midst of a playoff push. On Friday, the Lakers faced the daunting task of slowing down Giannis Antetokounmpo, one of the best players in the NBA.

The Lakers used the second overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft on D’Angelo Russell. The point guard’s time in Los Angeles appeared to end when he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets during the 2017 offseason. But, after playing for a couple of other NBA teams, Russell was traded back to the Lakers in 2023.

Russell has played well over the course of the 2023-24 season, but on Friday night he made the most of his second stint with the Purple and Gold.

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DAngelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to making a shot during the first half of a game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Crypto.com Arena on March 08, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. ( Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Russell stepped up when it mattered most, scoring 21 of his season-high 44 points in the fourth quarter and hit a go-ahead jumper with 5.9 seconds to play to lift the Lakers to a 123-122 victory over the Bucks.

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Russell’s clutch performance was particularly important as four-time NBA champion LeBron James sat out of the game to rest his sore left ankle. James hobbled off the court with four minutes left in the Lakers’ loss to Sacramento on Wednesday night with the latest flare-up of an ankle injury that has bothered the leading scorer in NBA history throughout his 21st season.

After the game, Russell took a moment to reflect on some of the up-and-downs he has faced during his professional basketball career.

D'Angelo Russell celebrates

D’Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates after the game against the Milwaukee Bucks on March 8, 2024 at Crypto.Com Arena in Los Angeles, California. (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

The 28-year-old suggested that “public humiliation” simply makes him better.

“With my craft and my talent on the floor, I’ve always felt like I was capable of doing things. Getting hot makes it a little more exciting throughout a game,” Russell said via the Los Angeles Times. “Off the floor, obviously, you know what I’ve been through. Public humiliation has done nothing but molded me into the killer that y’all see today. And, um, I never lack confidence. I never fear confrontation. I want all the smoke.”

D'Angelo Russell scores game winner

D’Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers scores the game winning basket during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks on March 8, 2024 at Crypto.Com Arena in Los Angeles, California. (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Russell is averaging 18.1 points per game, along with 6.2 assists per contest this season.

“D-Lo just stepped up and won us the game, and obviously with Spence with the defense on that last possession,” Russell’s teammate Austin Reaves said. “Just seeing D-Lo take over the game, I constantly kept telling him in timeouts, ‘Take us home.’”

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Russell’s name was linked to multiple trade rumors ahead of last month’s NBA trade deadline. The Lakers ultimately decided to retain the point guard, and it appears that decision is paying off.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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