About Last Night

About Last Night: Randle rolls on

Julius Randle continues his sterling play for the Pelicans, Kyle Lowry can't seem to find his shooting stroke, and the Bulls battle through a bizarre Sunday

Dan McCarney, NBA.com

The big debate in New Orleans lately has been whether power forward Julius Randle should be starting.

Though he says he doesn’t care, the fifth-year veteran continues to make his case, delivering another impressive performance in what is shaping up to be his breakout season.

With All-Star centerpiece Anthony Davis hampered by a hip injury, Randle picked up the slack with 28 points, six rebounds and five assists as the Pelicans defeated the Pistons 116-108 for just their fourth road win of the season.

It marked Randle’s fourth straight game with at least 26 points — you guessed it, all starts in replacement of the injured Nikola Mirotic. Randle is averaging 29.5 points and 11.3 rebounds over that span with a plus 17.8 net rating. Along the way he set career highs in scoring (37 points, against the Clippers) and rebounds (18, against the Mavericks) in back-to-back games.

It continued Randle’s trend of performing significantly better as a starter, averaging 24.8 points and 11.3 rebounds in those eight games compared to 17.0 points and 8.6 rebounds in 20 games off the bench. While he obviously gets more minutes as a starter, Randle also shoots roughly three percentage points better from the floor in that capacity.

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry has said he doesn’t see himself making a definitive decision between Randle and Mirotic, preferring to choose depending on that night’s matchup.

But if Randle keeps tearing it up like a young Karl Malone, Gentry might not have a choice.

The frozen north

On the other end of the heat index is Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, whose recent stretch of frigid play reached its lowest point yet against the Bucks with one of the worst games of his career.

Lowry finished without a single point for the first time since March 2013 and only the third start of his career. It marked his fourth straight game in single digits, and continued a stretch in which he’s averaging a paltry 5.0 points on 19-percent shooting in more than 35 minutes over the past five games.

Not surprisingly, the Raptors have dropped three of those contests, including 104-99 to the Bucks in a game where even a mediocre effort from their All-Star point guard might have made the difference. Lowry shot 0 for 5 against Milwaukee, all from 3-point range, and has taken 32 of his past 42 shots from beyond the arc.

“I don’t know, I just couldn’t find the open ones tonight,” said Lowry, as quoted by the Toronto Star. “I’ve got to be a little bit more (aggressive) inside the paint, inside the arc. I definitely do.”

Rough adjustment

Replacing a coach midseason is never easy, but Jim Boylen has had an especially tough time taking over for the recently-sacked Fred Hoiberg in Chicago.

After a six-point loss to the Pacers and a two-point win over the Thunder to start his tenure, Boylen saw his team get absolutely mauled by the Celtics on Saturday, losing by 56 points to set the Bulls record for largest defeat in team history and tie the NBA mark for worst home loss.

Then came news that the players reportedly usurped his plans for a Sunday practice in order to hold a two-hour, players-only meeting, followed by an additional meeting with the coaching staff.

As reported by ESPN, Boylen acknowledged after that gathering that there’s been “a little shock and awe” in response to his aggressive approach, which has included lengthy benchings, tough practices and zero hesitation to criticize his team’s effort, or lack thereof. (A handful of players were reportedly so unhappy with the prospect of another long workout on Sunday after games on Friday and Saturday — a rarity in the NBA — that they had to be talked into showing up at all.)

Boylen’s aggressive approach stands in stark contrast to the mild-mannered Hoiberg, who was fired last week with a 115-155 record and one playoff appearance in three-plus seasons.

“We’re still learning about each other,” Boylen said. “They’re still learning how I want it … and there’s an adjustment to that.”

Said Zach LaVine, per the Chicago Tribune: “We needed to get a lot of stuff off our chest and be transparent. I don’t think the players’ toughness should ever be questioned. I think that’s on us. I think that is a little bit of what we discussed in our meeting.”

Racking up the Ws

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will no doubt blow his latest milestone off as having stuck around for a really long time as opposed to being really good at his job. (It’s both.) But the Spurs’ rout of the Jazz gave him 1,210 career victories, tying him with Pat Riley for fourth all-time. One more win will put him in sole possession of fourth place, trailing only Jerry Sloan (1,221), Lenny Wilkens (1,332) and record holder Don Nelson (1,335).

Line of the night

It couldn’t avert a lopsided loss to the Hornets, but Knicks rookie Kevin Knox joined some rare company with his 26-point, 15-rebound performance.