2. Russell doing the work at the defensive end
In the early stages of his career, D’Angelo Russell has had playing time taken away from him because of his sometimes-lackluster effort on the defensive end of the floor.
No one has ever questioned his offensive ability — even as his consistency wavered at times — but he was a player who sometimes seemed unwilling to really put in the work defensively.
Russell is doing some work of late and that effort is making a big difference for the Brooklyn Nets.
On Friday, Russell was again extremely active on defense, getting a couple of steals by being in the right spot to jump a passing lane without over-committing, and he did good work on the defensive glass.
Jamal Murray was held to a 5-for-14 night shooting — he’s two games removed from a 48-point explosion against the Boston Celtics, remember — and a lot of the credit for that goes to Russell making sure he was in the right place.
Murray did get going a bit in the second half, scoring 12 of his 16 points, but he was still just 3-for-8 from the floor in the process.
Russell had a solid night offensively, as well, with a team-high 23 points on 7-of-14 shooting to go with five assists and only two turnovers. Russell had 22 turnovers through Brooklyn’s first seven games, an average of 3.1 a game.
In his last five games, he has just six and Brooklyn is 4-1 over that span.
Much like the rest of the team, Russell is playing much more under control and isn’t quite as focused on making a highlight-reel pass so much as he is on making a good one.
But even better, Russell is working on the defensive end and contributing to wins even when his shot isn’t on the mark. It seems he’s turned a significant mental corner of late.