4th-quarter D’Angelo Russell shines again as Timberwolves top Jazz
D-Lo went a perfect 6 for 6 from 3-point range in a 20-point final frame
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Known for years now as a fourth-quarter assassin, D’Angelo Russell again lived up to the reputation Friday in Utah.
The cold-blooded point guard — whose signature celebration suggests he has “ice in his veins” — went a perfect 6 for 6 from 3-point range in a 20-point final frame to lead Minnesota to a 118-108 victory in Utah.
This just two nights after Russell poured in 15 points on 5-for-7 shooting in the fourth quarter in a win over Indiana. Russell is single-handedly carrying the late-game offense at the moment to help the Timberwolves score important victories.
“He’s just really locked in on his shot right now. It looks clean and he’s letting it go,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now, and it’s really good to see.”
That confidence — particularly in the shot — didn’t appear to be there early in the season, as Russell struggled with his jumper. That likely was at least partly because the point guard was asked to be such a floor general. Sharing the court with Rudy Gobert, Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns, there was a heavy emphasis on Russell to distribute. While he can do that, it’s not necessarily the focal point of his game.
“He did that,” Finch said. “Unfortunately, I think it hurt rhythm-wise a bit.”
Russell conceded as much after Friday’s game.
“Honestly I had the wrong approach. I was trying to be too focused on being a point guard instead of a basketball player,” Russell said. “Switching it up so my mentality was that there’s a lot of opportunity out there for me to just be me instead of overthink it and try to point guard the team. That’s never really been my thing. I kind of just play basketball freely and have fun. I pass the ball, so I’m labeled as a point guard. But just being a full, all-around basketball player, switching my approach to that versus what it was has been helpful.”
Without Towns, Russell has started to focus on — and find — his offensive flow, and is prospering because of it. Finch noted that process started when Towns was on the floor, noting Russell’s excellent offensive showing last month against Cleveland. But having one less mouth to feed has no doubt freed Russell up to play his brand of basketball, and both he and Minnesota have been better for it.
In Friday’s win, there was no hesitation from Russell — who finished with 30 points on a scintillating 12-for-16 shooting performance — to fire at will, particularly against Utah’s zone defense. When there was an opening, Russell took it, and usually capitalized.
The victory was a special one to Gobert, who spent his first 10 seasons in Utah. The center received a sentimental video tribute from the Jazz and a warm welcome from the fan base. Gobert previously admitted Friday’s game was a big one for him personally. But Russell noted the center didn’t let his personal feelings take away from the team’s goal. That helped lead the way for an important victory.
Gobert finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds.
“He stayed locked in and he led as well,” Russell said, “and we just followed.”
Jordan McLaughlin left the game with calf tightness and did not return.
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