D'Angelo Russell proves he's the Lakers' key to a title in win over Thunder

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Just days after losing to the defending NBA Champions the Los Angeles Lakers had another tough challenge at home as the team hosted the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night. Heading into Monday the Thunder were the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference with a 42-17 record.

After winning two of the first three games against the Thunder, the Lakers had a real chance to send a statement to OKC on Monday night. With a win, the Lakers would officially cement themselves as the team who the Thunder definitely did not want to see in the first round.

That is exactly what the Lake Show did, overcoming a slow start in the first quarter to rally to a comfortable 12-point win. The Lakers dominated the game after a slow start with D'Angelo Russell getting red-hot in the second half to put the game away.

Russell, who has had several impressive moments this season, had arguably his most impressive stretch of play in the second half against the Thunder. This was more than just a good game for D'Lo, though, as it was also a firm reminder of how important he is to this Lakers team.

D'Angelo Russell proves he's the key to the Lakers winning the title

For better or worse, the Los Angeles Lakers are going to go as far as D'Angelo Russell can take them this season. Russell is not the best player on the Lakers, nor is he the most important, but he is the difference between the Lakers being a middling team and being a true title contender.

As great as LeBron James and Anthony Davis are, they can only do so much and the superstars need more help to consistently beat the best teams in the league. If the Lakers are going to go on a deep playoff run, they need a third player to step up and take some of the pressure off LeBron and AD.

D'Lo is that player and when everything is going right it is a beautiful sight to see. When Russell is cooking the Lakers' offense is so much more dynamic and it opens up the flow of everything else that the Lakers do.

When Russell is playing poorly it often stagnates the offense and checks Russell out on the other end as a process. Darvin Ham has had a quick hook with Russell (rightfully so with his past) and it takes this dynamic presence completely out of play for the Lakers.

Russell's hot streak in the second half is what cemented the win for the Lakers. If the team is going to win games in the playoffs then Russell is going to have to turn in showings like this on a consistent basis.

If not, the Lakers aren't going to be able to beat the Thunder come April and May.

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