Brown told Nuggets reporters that Russell is not the best defender.
Russell played only 26 minutes in Game 1. He finished with eight points and three assists while shooting 4-of-11 from the field and 0-of-3 from beyond the arc. Russell had a plus-minus of -8 in the Lakers’ 132-126 loss in Denver.
The Nuggets have a big and versatile starting lineup of Jamal Murray, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon and Nikola Jokic. Russell had a tough time guarding Murray and Caldwell-Pope in Game 1, which is why Lakers head coach Darvin Ham played the Ohio State product for just 26 minutes.
Video: D’Angelo Russell Puts Up Shots After Game 1
Russell, who becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, put up shots after the Game 1 loss in Denver at Ball Arena. He was filmed by Allen Sliwa of ESPN Los Angeles.
Russell is averaging 15.1 points and 4.8 assists in the 2023 playoffs versus the Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors and Nuggets while shooting 44.0% from the floor, 33.3% from 3-point land and 77.3% from the free-throw line. The Lakers need the 27-year-old to have a strong game on both ends of the court in Game 2 to come out victorious.
Los Angeles is expected to start Russell, Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura, LeBron James and Anthony Davis in Game 2, sources told Heavy Sports. Some pundits believe Russell should come off the bench, but the Lakers fear they would “lose” D’Lo if that happened, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on LeBron James: ‘He’s Just Relentless’
After the Nuggets beat the Lakers in Game 1 of the conference finals on May 16, Caldwell-Pope — who was on the 2020 championship team — told Melissa Rohlin of Fox Sports that James has his “spark” back.
Back in October when the Lakers were one of the worst teams in the league, Caldwell-Pope told McMenamin that he didn’t see a “spark” in James’ game since the purple and gold were so bad. However, KCP has seen a change in LeBron ever since the February trade deadline.
“He’s gotten it back,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I feel like it happened after the trade deadline. Just seeing them guys play, I watched pretty much every game. He’s just relentless. Just seeing him continuing to do what he’s doing at his age and the years that he’s been in the league, it’s truly amazing.”
James, 38, is averaging 23.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 5.6 assists in the 2023 postseason. The four-time MVP and four-time Finals MVP is shooting 49.6% overall but only 25.0% from deep. James has only lost one conference finals series during his legendary career, so the odds are still in the Lakers’ favor to beat the Nuggets despite what happened in Game 1.
Both James and Davis greeted Caldwell-Pope at Ball Arena after Game 1 ended following the Nuggets’ postgame session with media members. The three champions are still friends despite Caldwell-Pope being on a different team.
“They’re my brothers, man,” Caldwell-Pope said. “At the end of the day, we’re brothers off this court. But right now, on the court, in this series we’ll save that brotherly stuff until after the series.”