The Memphis Grizzlies could see Julius Randle everywhere they turned, as each fan at Staples Center was given an oversized paper cutout of the power forward’s face.
And it sure felt like there were 18,997 actual Randles out there, as he went to work tallying the third triple-double of his career to power the Lakers’ 116-102 victory.
“He went in full beast mode,” Nick Young said of Randle’s performance. “It’s hard to guard somebody that can move like that and carry 260 pounds on and be (6-foot-9). … He’s turned into the Juggernaut with handles.”
Randle certainly played like the unstoppable X-Men villain, finishing with 19 points, 14 rebounds and a career-high 11 assists on the night. But it really all started at practice the day before where head coach Luke Walton called him out.
“He pissed me off,” Randle said with a smile. “I wasn’t mad. I was mad at the moment. But it’s just him challenging me to do more. I just tried to accept the challenge and be coachable.”
Later in the day, Walton called Randle to see if he was still mad. The coach didn’t care if the answer was yes or no, just that Randle knew that he is hard on him in order to try to bring out his full potential.
“I’m going to continue to hold him to high standards,” Walton said. “He obviously responded pretty well and gave us a real nice effort tonight.”
Indeed it was, as Randle shot 9-of-15 from the field with only two turnovers.
In spite of the super-stuffed stat sheet, Walton was still happier with Randle’s constant attention and involvement on defense.
“I don’t care about the numbers,” Walton said. “The thing that I liked the most about his game tonight was he was alert the whole game. And he still made mistakes, but there was never a time he was on the court where he was just standing up and checked out of a possession.”
Point guard D’Angelo Russell said that Randle has, at times, fallen into “kind of distant” moods during games.
But it never came near that point this time, as the 22-year-old broke the Grizzlies’ league-best mark of 177 straight games without yielding a triple-double.
“He rebounds the ball really well and he’s a pass-first type of guy,” Russell said. “I feel like when we’re making shots it makes him anxious and anxious to just keep getting us the ball. He’s gonna rebound, he’s gonna score and he’s gonna get that naturally.”
Shooters Catch Fire
Randle’s value was at its highest when setting up his shooters for their best night of the year.
While the Lakers knocked down a season-high 17 3-pointers, the big man assisted on eight of them.
Young and Russell were the primary beneficiaries, hitting six apiece.
It was all part of a red-hot night for the Lakers, who shot 51.2 percent and had 34 assists against only nine turnovers. Not only did they bombard the Grizzlies (22-15) from deep, but they pounded them down low with 46 points — 10 higher than Memphis’ league-best average.
On the other hand, they also held the Grizzlies to just a 39.0 field goal percentage, despite solid nights from Marc Gasol (22 points) and Mike Conley (21).
“That’s the most complete game we’ve put together in a long time,” Walton said. “And (it was) against a really good team — a really good defensive team — which hopefully reinforces the idea that when we play to make plays for each other, we’re tough to guard.
“We have enough scorers and weapons that can get hot. That should be something we continue to play like.”
Mid-second quarter, Young turned into a flamethrower by hitting four straight 3-pointers to turn a one-point deficit into a six point lead. Russell added another triple and Los Angeles (13-25) didn’t look back, leading by double figures for the majority of the second half.
Young continued his hot streak by leading the Lakers with 20 points while Russell scored 18 with six assists. Together, they became the first duo in franchise history to each hit six 3-pointers in multiple games after doing so in L.A.’s previous tilt on Sunday.
Jordan Clarkson provided 16 points and seven rebounds. … The Lakers scored 116 points despite shooting just 15-of-28 on free throws. … A fan, 30-year-old Jerald Acoba of Tulare, Calif., won $95,000 by hitting a halfcourt shot between the third and fourth quarters. … A sold-out crowd of 18,997 filled Staples Center.