Los Angeles Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell had the best game of his young career on Tuesday night against the Brooklyn Nets. The 20-year-old scored 39 points and went 8-for-12 behind the three-point line, boosting his season average beyond the arc up to a respectable 36.1 percent.
But more memorable (and, arguably, more significant) than any one of those shots was Russell’s celebratory reaction after he nailed the last one, to give the Lakers a six-point lead with about 30 seconds left in the game:
This was hilarious, and even better was what Russell had to say about it afterwards (via Orange County Register):
“To be honest,” Russell said, “I was running out of celebrations.” Russell's 39 points were the most by a Lakers rookie since Elgin Baylor scored 55 in 1959. He was 14 of 21 from the field, and 8 of 12 on 3-pointers. He added six rebounds and three assists in 36 minutes. He received the sort of treatment usually reserved for Bryant. His postgame news conference was held on a podium in an interview room, instead of at his locker. “I’ve never been up here,” he said. “I didn’t know this existed.”
In what should be viewed as the most notable performance any Laker (including Kobe Bryant) has had in 2016, Russell became just the fourth 20-year-old since 1983 to score at least 39 points in a game, with a field goal percentage above 65 percent. (The other three are LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Shaquille O’Neal.)
After spending most of this season shackled to head coach Byron Scott’s bench whenever L.A. found itself in crunch time, Tuesday night Russell proved all he needs is an opportunity to shine. His future is as bright as any player in the league.
Finally, the Lakers have something to smile about.