D’Angelo Russell’s grandmother died early Sunday morning. And initially, his plan was to skip the Lakers’ game against the Timberwolves Sunday night in order to fly home to Louisville to be with his family. But at the last minute, he decided against it and chose to honor her by playing in the game instead, and that turned out to be a great decision for both him and those closest to him.
Russell ended up scoring 16 points during the game. But none were more important than the three he scored when he hit a game-winning buzzer-beater to help the Lakers stun the Timberwolves 110-109 at the Staples Center. The three-pointer came after Julius Randle was able to grab an offensive rebound on a missed shot by Metta World Peace and kick it to Russell for a shot as time expired. You can watch it here:
After the shot went in, Russell was obviously very emotional. He celebrated with his Lakers teammates before celebrating with several members of his family who were at the game:
And he spoke about how special the shot was to him. "I just wanted to win," he said. "Win the game, and winning shot, it’s just God putting the cherry on top. The win would have been good enough."
He also talked about why he ultimately decided to play in the game after giving it some thought earlier in the day. "Honestly, I knew that’s what my grandma would have wanted," he said. "My dad, my brothers—everybody wanted me to play. I wanted to get away from basketball. I didn’t want to express myself through basketball. But that’s the only option I kind of had, so I tried to take advantage of it."
Oddly enough, the Lakers win may hurt them in the long run. At this point in the season, they actually need to lose games, not win them, in order to make sure they keep their lottery pick in the NBA Draft this summer. The 76ers would get their pick if the Lakers don’t finish with one of the three worst records in the league at the end of the regular season. So some Lakers fans were upset to see the team win its fourth game in a row on Sunday:
But after seeing what Russell was able to do, it’s hard to blame him or anyone on the Lakers for going for the win. It was a night Russell and his teammates will never forget.