Russell issued a rebuttal Tuesday night when he made a critical 3-pointer with a little more than 22 seconds remaining to put the Nets ahead, 113-107. He finished with a team-high 22 points and tied his career high of 13 assists.
“He hurt us,” Lakers Coach Luke Walton said. “He’s a talented player, and we know that. He had a big-time game tonight. That’s why this team has won six games in a row. They have a lot of different guys that can hurt you.”
Even unlikely ones like the journeyman Jared Dudley, who added 13 points off the bench.
“He’s that guy you play with at the park,” Nets Coach Kenny Atkinson said. “He’s got tattered sneakers; he’s like 42 years old. You want that guy when you go to the park. You want Jared Dudley on your team because the I.Q. is off the charts and he plays so hard. He’s been a pleasant surprise. We weren’t expecting this.”
The same might be said of the Nets. Less than two weeks ago, the team looked to be headed in the opposite direction, struggling with injuries and an eight-game losing streak. But an overtime victory against Toronto, the East’s top team, ignited the Nets’ run.
Atkinson said the difference was the team’s confidence and willingness to share the ball. “I think once it steamrolls, you start getting a couple then a couple more,” he said. “You can see the spirit on the bench.”
During momentum swings, and standout plays by James, it seemed as if it were a Lakers home game. Clearly, James was the main attraction.
An hour before tipoff, dozens of reporters stood in the middle of the Lakers’ locker room waiting for King James to hold court. It never happened. “LeBron doesn’t talk in the pregame,” a Los Angeles-based reporter said.
Singing, however, was not off the table. James turned up “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” by Puff Daddy and Mase and belted out the lyrics.