Down 0-3 in the series, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham was in desperate need of a boost heading into Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets. The first-year shot-caller decided to turn to Rui Hachimura as a makeshift starter, who in turn, took the place of D'Angelo Russell in the starting unit.
For his part, Russell has always been a starter throughout his career. As a matter of fact, Game 4 against the Nuggets was the first time he came off the bench since hid mid-season move to LA. It wasn't exactly an ideal situation for the one-time All-Star, but he knew he had to make the big sacrifice for the good of the team:
“I mean, it was tough,” Russell said, via Matt Peralta of Lakers Nation. “It was tough to agree with it obviously, but in a short period of time to not become a distraction to your teammates and to everybody else that’s preparing just like you to get the one goal done which is win. I knew that was where you had to be professional. You can’t be a distraction at this point of the season and things like that, so that’s kind of how I went about it. I wanted to be professional and try to dominate my minutes when there were minutes for me.”
In the end, though, it didn't even matter. The Nuggets still came away with a victory to sweep the Lakers 4-0 in the West Finals. One could argue that D'Angelo Russell starting or coming off the bench would not have had a significant impact on the outcome of the contest, given how Nikola Jokic and Co. were just so dominant not only in the final game of the series, but throughout the entire series sa well.