BROOKLYN, N.Y. — LeBron James is bumping Nas, Biggie and Busta Rhymes in the Lakers’ locker room before the game. He bobs his head as he mentally prepares himself to music that came from New York.
It was cool and all, but this isn’t his city. This is Brooklyn, home of the Nets. And for the night, it was D’Angelo Russell’s city.
In what was arguably the biggest game in Brooklyn since the last game of the 2014-2015 season, the Brooklyn Nets (14-18) knocked off LeBron and the Lakers (18-13), 115-110, Tuesday night at Barclays Center.
It was their six straight win, the longest streak in the NBA.
“It’s a great feeling, I personally have never been in that position at this level to win six in a row. Definitely not satisfied,” said Russell after the game.”
The Nets led by 10 early in the fourth, but the Lakers, led by LeBron, made their comeback and brought it within three with less than 40 seconds left. As the clock ticked and the fans got on their feet, Russell stepped into his shot and hit what would be the game-winning three-pointer with 22 seconds left.
Russell wouldn’t take sole credit for winning the game for the Nets. When asked about the dagger he answer with, “What about it? It gave us a better opportunity to win.”
Appropriately, the three came in the face of Kyle Kuzma. Kuzma, of course, was taken with the pick the Nets traded to get Russell. It was all so fitting.
And how about that swagger, the ice in his veins we’ve so longed for?
Russell was 21-years-old when the Lakers traded him to the Nets and GM and Hall-of-Famer, Magic Johnson, dissed him on his way out, saying he basically lacked leadership. Well, Russell just got a little payback and it comes at a crucial time.
It’s the first time the Nets have won six straight 2014-2015, the last time they made the playoffs. They haven’t won seven straight since their first season in Brooklyn.
None of it happens without a concerted team effort. The Lakers cut it to three with less than 1:10 remaining, but Jared Dudley nailed a long two to stop the bleeding and put the Nets up five. DLo answered with the three and the rest is history.
Russell finished with 22 points and a career-high tying 13 assists in 34 minutes. He averaged 18 points and eight assists in the five games prior. After him was Joe Harris with 19 points and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson with 17 points and eight rebounds.
Brooklyn’s bench was also vital in the victory. They out-scored Los Angeles’ bench 48-18, led by Spencer Dinwiddie (18 points), DeMarre Carroll (13 points) and Dudley (13 points).
“We’re winning. We’re winning, so I would say give credit to Coach. It’s not an easy thing to do when you have two dominant ball-handlers, so I give credit to the coaching staff,” Russell answered when he was asked about his chemistry with Dinwiddie.
“When we’re out there together I notice there’s a two-headed snake coming at you and no team wants to see that.”
There hasn’t been this much buzz around the Nets since then and the building was electric with James and the Lakers in town. But there would be no throne, no bowing down to “The King”. Not anymore.
Speaking of LeBron, he went off for 36 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. He sounded a little bothered by the poster block Jarrett Allen put him on in the first quarter.
“He’s in his twenties, I’m in my thirties. It takes me a little longer to get warmed up, but that’s fine,” said James. “When you’re a shot blocker, I’m sure you can get a block. It happens. It’s probably all over social media, so that’s cool.”
You can taste the salt.
And so, it’s a storybook ending to the night for Russell and the Nets, who have officially turned the page following an eight-game losing streak. They aren’t satisfied, but they also never lost hope, even when things looked bad.
“That’s the thing with this group. I feel like we have a good group of guys that really believe in trusting the process, really believe in working hard, really believe in the coaching staff, really believe in the next man. That’s the best part about being here,” Rondae Hollis-Jefferson said afterwards.