Brooklyn Nets: D’Angelo Russell comes up just short in huge 2nd half

Brooklyn Nets D'Angelo Russell (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets D'Angelo Russell (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

D’Angelo Russell left no doubt Monday night why he’s headed to Charlotte for the All-Star Game this weekend with a huge 2nd half for the Brooklyn Nets.

If the true test of an NBA player’s worth is how much he can contribute to his team when the shots aren’t falling, D’Angelo Russell is worth a great deal to the Brooklyn Nets.

Russell found other ways to contribute in the first half Monday night against the Toronto Raptors, handing out eight assists and grabbing six rebounds while scoring just four points on 1-of-7 shooting.

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His all-around play helped the Nets to a 60-56 halftime lead in a game they eventually lost 127-125, despite Russell’s offensive explosion after the break.

Russell scored 14 points in the third quarter and added 10 more in the fourth, hitting 9-of-15 from the floor in the second half to go with six assists.

However, his last shot came up short despite a ball fake that would have cleared him enough space to get a clean look against most defenders in the NBA.

But Danny Green is not most defenders and did just enough to bother Russell’s potential game-winning 3 as time wound down.

It was another big performance in a breakout season for the soon-to-be 23-year-old — Russell’s birthday is coming up on Feb. 23. He’s heading to his first All-Star Game this weekend while putting up career numbers in his fourth NBA season.

Russell is now averaging 20.0 points and 6.6 assists in just 29.9 minutes per game. Per Basketball-Reference, no player in NBA history has averaged at least 20 points and six assists in less than 30 minutes per game. So he’s having a pretty special season so far.

He is also shooting 43.6 percent overall and 37.4 percent on 7.2 3-point attempts per game this season. All four of those figures are career-highs.

Besides his 28 points on Monday, Russell established a new career-high with his 14 assists against the Raptors.

He’s also making some history this season.

With his six 3-pointers in Wednesday’s win over the Denver Nuggets, Russell hit a milestone as he became the youngest player in NBA history to reach the 500 mark in his career.

He made two 3s on Monday, running his total to 154 on the season — already the sixth-highest single-season total in Nets history and within striking distance of the franchise record of 201 set last season by Allen Crabbe.

Russell will play for Team Giannis in Sunday’s All-Star Game in Charlotte after being selected by captain Giannis Antetokounmpo in last Thursday’s draft for the game.

The team has three other point guards — Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder (acquired by Team Giannis in a post-draft trade for Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers) and hometown selection Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Hornets.

So there might not be a lot of All-Star minutes available for Russell.

But he’s done enough to get there and that is saying a lot for a player whom the Los Angeles Lakers gave up on just two seasons after selecting him with the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

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As Russell prepares to hit restricted free agency this summer, he just keeps driving his value up.