D’Angelo Russell Scores 40 on Birthday, Allowing Nets to Celebrate

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Six days after his first All-Star appearance, D’Angelo Russell believes his confidence is at its highest ever.

“For sure, because I feel like when you have that All-Star badge, you have to be aggressive,” Russell said. “Teams expect it already, they game plan for you and they are trying to stop you — and I feel like I can’t be stopped.”

Russell celebrated his 23rd birthday by tying a career high with 40 points, including 12 straight down the stretch, to lead the Nets to a 117-115 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night.

The victory kept the Nets alone in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, ahead of the Hornets, and gives them a 2-1 edge in the season series entering Friday night’s game at Brooklyn.

Russell’s big effort came on the same floor where Russell played in the N.B.A. All-Star Game last Sunday night.

Russell made 14 of 31 shots from the field with six 3-pointers to go along with seven assists. The Nets repeatedly turned to him to make plays, setting screens to free him up on drives and long jumpers.

“We just jumped on his back,” Nets guard Joe Harris said.

The Hornets and their fans left the arena upset at the way the game ended.

After Russell knocked down a fadeaway jumper from 15 feet, and then buried a long 3-pointer from the top of the key with 39 seconds left to give the Nets a 117-115 lead, the Hornets had a chance to win the game on the final possession.

However, Caris LeVert blocked Kemba Walker’s 3-point shot as time expired. Hornets players threw their arms up looking for a call, thinking LeVert had committed a foul. Walker sat on the floor in disbelief.

The crowd booed as the officials gathered their coats and walked off the floor.

“You guys watch the film, you tell me what that was,” Hornets Coach James Borrego said in a brief news conference after the game. “I know what I saw. I saw it live and I just saw it on film.”

Walker refused to comment on the play, saying he did not want to be fined by the league. “It’s over and there is nothing I can do about it at this point, so it’s whatever,” said Walker, who finished with 32 points, including 28 in the second half, when the Hornets rallied from a 19-point deficit.

LeVert said he thought he blocked the ball with his elbow, but he was not completely sure.

“With plays like that the refs are looking at every little thing, if your hands are in the air,” LeVert said. “So the best thing to do is show your hands. If they call it, they call it.”


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