D'Angelo Russell shows true colors in Lakers' Game 1 loss to Nuggets

Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets - Game One
Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets - Game One / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages

For the ninth game in a row, the Denver Nuggets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in a game where they simply out-executed their counterparts. The Lakers were in the game, and were controlling it in the first half, but Denver's precise play was ultimately too much for LA to ovecome.

The series isn't over after just one game but this would have been a huge win for the Lake Show if the team held on. Beating the Nuggets in Game 1 would have gotten the monkey off the Lakers' back against the Nuggets. Instead, they are already on the defensive and desperately need to steal a win in Game 2 on Monday.

This game was also a big one for D'Angelo Russell, who struggled mightily in the Western Conference Finals last year against the Nuggets. After a strong regular season, there was hope that Russell would show up in this first-round series as a different player.

That is not what happened in Game 1. Russell, once again, looked like a shell of his regular-season self and was a big reason why the Lakers were unable to break the Nuggets' winning streak.

D'Angelo Russell's stinker against the Nuggets shouldn't surprise Lakers fans

In a game where the Lakers lost by 11, Russell just going 4-9 from three could have made a world of difference. Late in the game, Russell had two open three-point attempts with the Lakers having momentum and a chance to cut the lead. He bricked both.

It wasn't just the poor three-point shooting. Russell blew a wide-open lay-up in the second quarter and proceeded to play horrible off-ball defense on the other end. Just like last year, Russell had the tendency to drift on defense and get lost in the shuffle.

The fact of the matter is that Russell is a good regular-season player but is not a winning player in the playoffs. When it happens time and time again like this it is not an accident. There is a reason why multiple contenders were so excited to get rid of Russell in the past. He becomes someone who is hunted in the playoffs and when the shot isn't falling, his play tends to snowball.

Russell is the biggest key for the Lakers in this year's NBA Playoffs. When he plays like he did at points in the regular season then the Lakers become a very hard team to beat four times out of seven.

But when he plays like he did on Saturday night he actively hurts the Lakers. If Russell continues to play like this then this year's series will end exactly like last year's — in four games.