D’Angelo Russell’s career night led to the Brooklyn Nets breaking a franchise record and shocking the Sacramento Kings.
Are you kidding me? Forty-four points. Twenty-seven in the fourth quarter. D’Angelo Russell is absolute insanity. The All-Star led the Brooklyn Nets from down 28 points in the second half. It was the largest comeback in franchise history and the Sacramento Kings had no idea what hit them. Brooklyn was able to top Sacramento 123-121 in what is undoubtedly the team’s best win of the season.
Yes, you read that correctly. The Nets came back from down 28 points in the second half. In fact, Brooklyn trailed by 25 points at the onset of the fourth quarter.
Head coach Kenny Atkinson had to pull out all the stops, riding an unorthodox lineup down the stretch. Treveon Graham, Rodions Kurucs, Jared Dudley, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson all played major minutes in the fourth quarter alongside the aforementioned Russell.
Russell drove the bus, but Hollis Jefferson parked it. He finished the game with the winning bucket in the waning seconds. With five seconds left and the score tied at 121, the Kings, understandably, denied Russell the ball. Rather than try to force the ball into Russell, Hollis-Jefferson put the blinders on and drove the basket.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) March 20, 2019
His acrobatic finish fell and the Kings were left with less than a second on the clock and no timeouts. The Kings weren’t able to pull a Stephen Curry and nail the three-quarter court shot.
Each Net on the court made big plays when it mattered. Brooklyn’s veteran-presence—Dudley—hit a go-ahead three with just over a minute left. In addition to his game-winner, Hollis-Jefferson came up with crucial 50-50 balls when the Nets needed a lift.
Kurucs tried to start a few scuffles with every King who crossed his path. He may not have shot well in this one, but he provided an edge that was sorely needed. Graham didn’t make a huge impact on offense, but his team defense made a huge difference. The defensive cohesion was something to witness. The Nets held the Kings to 18 points in the fourth despite allowing 103 points through the first three frames.
But while the supporting cast all played crucial roles in the comeback, Russell was on a different plane of existence. In the fourth quarter, there was nothing he couldn’t do for the Brooklyn Nets. He was knocking down pull-up threes in transition, driving to the rim, finishing in traffic, but most importantly, he was dishing it to the open man when necessary. He finished the night with 12 assists—as if 44 points wasn’t enough.
THE ICE IS FLOWING THROUGH HIS VEINS TONIGHT ?❄️ pic.twitter.com/yxPgykHneh
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) March 20, 2019
Russell’s growth this season has been downright remarkable. He deserved his All-Star bid, but was still viewed as a player who wasn’t quite at that star level yet. Games like this are clear evidence that Russell is close to being mentioned among the top point guards in the NBA.
Russell’s dime to Dudley with 1:11 left was in the midst of his scoring flurry. No one could fault him for launching the contested three, but he made the smart play. Did Kobe Bryant teach him that one in Los Angeles? Probably not.
As fantastic as the finish was for Brooklyn, it could have been a gut-wrenching loss. Sacramento started the third quarter with a 20-0 run and it looked like the Nets had given up. There was no life.
The Nets were 0-3 on their road trip entering Tuesday night. Another loss would have put a little more fear in the hearts of Nets fans who previously penciled in a playoff spot. This victory can put those fans at ease. Brooklyn now sits comfortably in seventh-place with a three-game lead over the ninth-place Orlando Magic.
There are no breaks in the schedule for Brooklyn the rest of the way. They are still staring down three tough road games against the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, and Philadelphia 76ers.
But this win has to give this team a monumental lift. The Nets had a great opportunity to steal a win against the playoff-bound Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday. Lou Williams put a stop to that.
A blowout loss following that type of heartbreak could have sent the season into a complete tailspin. But instead, D’Angelo Russell put on his cape and swooped in to save the day. This was the largest comeback in franchise history and it was without a doubt the best game of Russell’s career.
If there was any panic that Brooklyn would make the playoffs, this win will quell those fears. At this point, teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, and Indiana Pacers might be hoping to see someone other than Brooklyn in the first round.
Of course, this win doesn’t mean that the Nets are poised for a Cinderella run in the playoffs. But it does show that this is a team that doesn’t quit and has a star player who can turn it on at a moment’s notice.
Furthermore, if any free agents were up late watching this game, they must be wondering what the Nets could be with a superstar on the wing.