D’Angelo Russell’s Game Winning Shot Hurts Lakers’ Lottery Chances

D’Angelo Russell capped a 16-point performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves last night with a game-winning three-pointer as time expired. The win extended the Los Angeles Lakers’ winning streak to four games and brought their overall record to 25-55.

Russell originally planned on sitting out Sunday’s game after hearing about the death of his grandmother early Sunday morning, but texted head coach Luke Walton and said he would like to honor his grandmother on the court. Teammate Jordan Clarkson told reporters Russell had missed his flight home to Louisville and thought it would be best to try and play through the pain.

D’Angelo played a total of 34 minutes, but the game essentially came down to the last possession down two points with the ball in his hands. The ball rolled around the rim and fell through the hoop as time expired, and the Staples Center erupted into cheers.

Once the confetti finished falling from the sky and fans began to head for the exits, Russell ran to his family who attended in the stands and embraced their love as they continued to grieve as a family. James Dator on SB Nation wrote this about Russell’s decision to play in Sunday’s game.

“Nobody would have faulted him for taking the game off to grieve, but instead he wanted to honor his grandmother.”

Every person who has lost someone close to them goes through the grief differently, and D’Angelo Russell is no different. Instead of running from the death of his grandmother, he faced it head on and made his family proud despite playing with a heavy heart.

With such supporting teammates and coaches, Russell was able to feel comfortable enough to take the floor during a family tragedy. Following the Lakers win, ESPN’s Jovan Buha article quoted head coach Luke Walton and his thoughts on D’Angelo Russell playing in Sunday’s game.

“We had talked this morning and originally he wasn’t going to play. Then he texted me on the way to the arena and said he wanted to play. I said, ‘Of course. Whatever we can do for you. I’ll leave it in your hands.’ He said he wanted to play. I get goosebumps even talking about the way the game ended. I mean, how awesome for him on such a tough day for him.”

Now that the game is over and done with, it is time to look at the bigger picture. The Los Angeles Lakers have now positioned them as the third worst team in the league, behind only the Brooklyn Nets and the Phoenix Suns. If the Lakers plan on continuing to tank for a top pick in the upcoming draft, they must keep their distance from the teams close by in the standings.

The 76ers own the rights to the Lakers first round draft pick as long as it falls out of the top three. With such little wiggle room left in the standings, the Lakers better hope the ping pong balls bounce their way come this May. Many 76ers’ fans are relying on the potential pick of the Lakers to help resurrect their franchise, which has been irrelevant for the last few years.

With just a few games remaining in the 2016-2017 regular season, wins and losses mean more to the teams at the bottom of the conference instead of the teams at the top. D’Angelo Russell made his family proud on Sunday night leaving them with a wonderful family moment, but hopefully it does not impact the team’s positioning in the upcoming NBA Draft.

[Featured Image by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]