As he said a month ago, it’s like D’Angelo Russell never left.
The 27-year-old returned from a six-game absence as a human firework show, pouring in 28 points and nine assists to lead the Lakers to a come-from-behind 122-112 victory over Toronto.
Russell was at his best when it mattered most, scoring 16 points in the fourth quarter alone on a perfect 5-for-5 clip from the field. The Crypto.com Arena crowd erupted as D’Angelo dropped one clutch bucket after another, cementing a comeback from multiple double-digit deficits.
“The fans are ready to explode at a certain point of the game,” Russell said. “They’re ready. I know that. I just want to bring that energy and give them that. I want to be the guy that’s hyping up the crowd and letting them feel that more because it’s huge for us.”
For as deafening as the arena ended up in the fourth quarter, it was absolutely muted to begin the game as the Raptors jumped out to a 25-10 lead only six minutes in.
The Lakers responded with a massive second quarter on offense, pouring in 39 points — led by Russell, Dennis Schröder, and Rui Hachimura — to take an eight-point lead into the half.
But the good vibes quickly evaporated, with Toronto beginning the back half with a 25-5 run that had the Lakers reeling offensively.
Enter Russell, who was masterful as L.A.’s lead guard, using his crafty stop-and-go ball handling to compromise the defense and carve out space for himself and others. And use that space he did, splashing five 3-pointers on eight attempts (including four in the fourth quarter).
But on a night when Anthony Davis scored an uncharacteristic eight points on seven attempts, it took a village to deliver the Lakers’ victory.
Russell’s fellow point guard, Schröder, also picked apart the Raptors’ defense with 23 points and seven assists. Moving to the bench due to D’Angelo’s return, Schröder was a pest on both sides of the ball, picking up four steals and ending up with a +32 plus-minus in his 33 minutes on the court.
Austin Reaves — king of the and-1 bucket — added in 18 points and five assists with six made free throws (on a night when the Lakers went 19-for-19 at the stripe). Hachimura and Jarred Vanderbilt both had their moments and scored 16 points apiece.
The Lakers (33-34) have now won four of their last five games and find themselves a half-game back of eighth place in the West. They continue their trek on Sunday with a visit from New York (39-29), which has won eight of 10.