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Lopez steals spotlight in Russell’s return to Los Angeles, 124-112

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Los Angeles Lakers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

“Every game is circled on my calendar. Every game,” Russell told NetsDaily before the season when asked about Friday’s match up against the Lakers.

Well, this Nets-Lakers matchup must have been circled in sharpie and highlighted in yellow because this was Russell’s first game back in L.A. since they dealt him to Brooklyn in order to give the keys to Lonzo Ball.

The story was supposed to the D’Angelo Russell revenge game but instead, it was Brook Lopez’s revenge game. Brook Lopez scored a season-high 34 points on six 3-pointers, leading Los Angeles to a 124-112 victory over the Nets, Friday night at Staples Center. His 34 point output is five short of Lopez’s career high.

The Nets trailed by double digits most of the second half thanks to the big effort from Lopez. He went off in the third quarter and nailed four 3-pointers which gave Los Angeles an 11-point lead entering the fourth quarter.

Brooklyn fought their way back late in the game and cut it to four, but Lopez secured the victory with a two-handed dunk to put L.A. up by 10. It was his 34th and final point of the night.

As noted, this was the first time Russell has seen the Lakers since Magic Johnson’s infamous comments in June: “But what I needed was a leader. I needed somebody that can make the other players better and also [somebody] they want to play with.”

It “certainly ruffled some feathers,” in Russell’s words. In his return, Russell finished with a line of 17 points, seven assists, seven rebounds and three steals in 35 minutes. He’s averaged 26.5 minutes per game prior to Friday. He struggled from the floor, shooting 8-of-24 and 1-of-8 from deep and made questionable decisions with four turnovers, particularly late in the game.

He forced the issue a bit too much and looked much better when he got near the rim. It wasn’t about showing Magic or the Lakers that he’s a leader. It’s about showing Kenny Atkinson and the Nets he’s their leader. It didn’t happen Friday. He’ll have more chances to do so. He’s only 21-years-old – 20 months older than his successor in La-La Land, Lonzo Ball, who finished the game with six points on 3-of-15 shooting.

The main issue continues to be defense. The Lakers shot 51 percent and out-rebounded the Nets 57-43. They have given up 120 or more points in seven of nine games this season.

Spencer Dinwiddie was in foul trouble all night, which hurt, but he nailed two big 3-pointers late in the game to keep Brooklyn afloat. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson finished with a career-high 21 points and Allen Crabbe led the team with 25 off the bench.

Still, guys like Caris LeVert (2-of-11) and DeMarre Carroll (4-of-11) struggled to find their rhythm and the rim. The Nets shot 9-of-38 from deep and committed 15 turnovers. They let up 68 points inside the paint, where Kyle Kuzma lived, finishing with 21 points and 13 rebounds. Kuzma was selected with Brooklyn’s pick that was traded to L.A. in the Russell deal.

The Nets are now 3-6 on the season, 0-4 on the road with four straight losses. This was the first game of a five-game road-trip with the next game coming against Phoenix. It’s early, but it’s sinking quick.

“We’re just not in rhythm right now,” Kenny Atkinson told reporters after the game.