Brooklyn Nets: D’Angelo Russell does it all in comeback win

Brooklyn Nets D'Angelo Russell. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets D'Angelo Russell. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images) /

D’Angelo Russell might lose the numbers game when it comes time to select All-Star reserves, but he’s hitting all the right buttons for the Brooklyn Nets.

When the Brooklyn Nets found themselves trailing the Orlando Magic by 21 points in the first half of their game at Amway Center in Orlando Friday night, D’Angelo Russell put the onus on himself to keep his team in the game.

Russell scored the final 19 points of the first half for the Nets, helping cut the Orlando lead to just 13 by halftime.

And with Brooklyn locked in a tie game with less than 30 seconds remaining, Russell once again took center stage, burying Evan Fournier with a vicious jab step before stepping back to drain his eighth 3-pointer of the night to give the Nets just their third lead of the game with 27.1 ticks on the clock.

Russell, who had been on the bench for the crunch-time comeback against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night, bounced back with a huge performance against the Magic, matching his career-high with 40 points and adding seven assists in Brooklyn’s improbable 117-115 win.

After his star turn, he told NBA TV that it’s about the group, the team, rather than any one player.

The win pushed the Nets over .500 at 24-23, the first time they’ve been better than break-even all season and, coupled with the Miami Heat’s loss on the road to the Detroit Pistons, gave Brooklyn a one-game cushion over the Heat in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

Russell had his deep shot on target and his mid-range game sizzling on Friday, hitting 16-of-25 overall and 8-of-12 from 3-point range.

In the process (h/t Orlando Magic Daily), Russell became just the 12th player in NBA history to score 40 points in a game without attempting a free throw. The rest of the list:

Query Results Table
1Kareem Abdul-Jabbar1973-01-25MILHOU442432.7500048
2Rick Barry1977-04-05GSWLAL362026.7690040
3Alex English1984-03-03DENUTA392232.688000044
4George Gervin1985-01-25SAS@HOU382126.808000042
5Chuck Person1987-02-11IND@PHO381823.783661.0000042
6Mark Aguirre1987-02-20DALSAS371930.633310.3000041
7Dennis Scott1993-04-13ORLMIL401631.516919.4740041
8Hakeem Olajuwon1997-01-30HOUDEN432440.600000048
9Wally Szczerbiak2003-04-13MINCHI371926.73167.8570044
10Paul George2018-02-01OKC@DEN361926.73158.6250043
11Klay Thompson2019-01-08GSWNYK341829.621716.4380043

Provided by View Original Table
Generated 1/18/2019.

So Russell is the 12th player to turn the trick all-time … and the second this month. Strange times these.

More from Nothin' But Nets

Russell bounced back from a tough night in Houston, where he was just 4-for-11 overall and 2-for-7 from deep, finishing with 10 points in 28 minutes.

On the season, Russell is now averaging 19.0 points, 6.4 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 29.5 minutes per game, shooting 43.7 percent overall and 37.4 percent from long range.

Perhaps most significantly for a player whose consistency has been consistently criticized throughout his career, what Russell has done over his last 10 games is eye-popping: 24.2 points, 6.9 assists, 3.2 boards on 50.8 percent shooting overall and 42.0 percent from 3.

Brooklyn is 7-3 over that stretch.

And for a player who continues to suffer from a now out-of-date narrative that he is a bad teammate — a narrative that just won’t go away — his reactions while on the bench during Wednesday’s wild win over the Rockets were just as solid as his numbers have been over the last three weeks.

He was the first guy off the bench to congratulate teammates during timeouts. He led the cheers from the sidelines. Russell’s joy was real — the team was doing an amazing thing and thus, he was happy.

Russell’s name won’t show up in the top 10 in the voting for the starting backcourt spots for next month’s All-Star Game in Charlotte, at least not on the latest update that came out this week, and it’s likely it won’t be there when the final results come in after the voting closes at 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Monday.

Next. 10 best Nets from 2nd NBA decade (1986-96). dark

But with Brooklyn’s record over the last six weeks (16-5) and their position in the conference playoff race (currently sixth), Eastern Conference coaches will have to at least consider Russell’s case to be a reserve in Charlotte.