Julius Randle drives against the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 12, 2018.
(Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Monster Mode: Randle Drops Career-High 36 Points

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

With Lamar Odom sitting courtside, Julius Randle put together an all-around game reminiscent of the former Laker. With Todd Gurley at the game, he displayed physicality similar to the All-Pro running back.

And with his son, Kyden, in attendance, Randle made sure his toddler saw the best game of Dad’s young career.

Randle completely overwhelmed the defending Eastern Conference champions, dropping a career-best 36 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists to lead the Lakers’ thumping of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“He has to be on everyone’s radar,” coach Luke Walton said at Monday’s practice. “He’s playing unbelievable basketball. He’s a matchup nightmare for teams, he’s versatile. … I would imagine most teams are pretty impressed with what he’s doing.”

On the other sideline, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said that Randle “bullied” his Cavaliers, as the 25-year-old used his signature strength and speed to shoot 14-of-18 from the field, draw 10 free throw attempts and score in an assortment of ways — post-ups, pick-and-rolls, cuts and more.

Randle began imposing his will early on, reintroducing himself to former teammate Larry Nance Jr. with a brutal post possession that recalled their days of practicing against one another.

Randle — who went from the NBA’s 15th percentile in post-up efficiency last year to 59th this season — simply backed down Nance, using his superior strength to get all the way to the rim.

Then Randle decided to overpower another one of his old teammates. This time, he practically tossed Jordan Clarkson aside while setting a pick for Lonzo Ball.

With Clarkson left above the 3-point line, Randle gave himself a nice runway to the rack, and there was no way that 6-foot-7 Kyle Korver was going to stop him at the hoop.

This has probably been the most effective part of Randle’s game this season. He is averaging 1.19 points per pick-and-roll possession, which is good for fourth in the NBA behind only Dwight Powell (1.37), Clint Capela (1.36) and Steven Adams (1.22).

In addition to his scoring in the paint, Randle was an excellent passer and one of the team’s best defenders. Cavs players shot just 8-of-21 from the field when defended by him, per NBA.com.

The play that best encapsulated Randle’s night came in the second quarter, when he was isolated on the best player in the world: LeBron James.

Randle successfully stymied James at the rim (one of the toughest tasks in the NBA), and immediately ran the floor. Ball got him the rock, and Randle hit Cleveland with a flashy Eurostep before kicking out to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for a wide-open corner triple.

“When he drives into the paint and play-makes we get wide-open shots, because he does such an amazing job of collapsing the defense,” Walton said.

Randle’s passing has been at its best out of post-ups. Over his last 12 games, Randle has topped the league with 11 post assists on only 14 passes.

His best dime of the night was one that showed a great degree of patience. Ball set a screen for Brook Lopez, who was open for a 3-pointer.

But Randle saw that the paint was completely unoccupied and waited for Ball to slip the pick for the easiest bucket of the game.

“He’s doing a lot better job of facilitating,” Kyle Kuzma said. “… A lot of times earlier in the year he might have thrown whatever up at the rim. Now he’s doing a great job of really sucking in that defense, kicking out to shooters.”

While Randle has made significant strides as a distributor, his biggest contributions will continue to be his own scoring at the rim. Over that 12-game sample size, no player has more buckets in the restricted area than him (88).

Cleveland’s Jeff Green got an all-too-close look at Randle’s paint prowess, struggling as his primary defender. But the Cavs had no answer on their roster for what Randle brought to the game.

There wasn’t much Green or anybody else could do to prevent Randle from spinning his way into one of four dunks on the night.

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