Many people lauded the efforts of players such as Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma who had bounce-back performances in the Los Angeles Lakers’ win Friday night against the Phoenix Suns. One player who was not mentioned in those discussions was Julius Randle.
For the second consecutive game, Randle seemed to lack energy and his playing time suffered because of it. That all changed on Sunday night as Randle looked like his old self against the Pelicans.
Even though the Lakers came up short against New Orleans, Randle was a catalyst for the team’s huge comeback in the second half. After the game, head coach Luke Walton called the game Randle’s best of the season and noted his change in energy level via Lakers Nation reporter Serena Winters:
Luke on Julius Randle: 'Best game so far…energy level seemed right tonight.' Also said he could tell a difference w/ him at shootaround.
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) October 23, 2017
Randle’s stat line wasn’t necessarily extraordinary as he finished with 11 points, two rebounds, and two blocks. His impact, however, was felt throughout the rest of the team as he flew up and down the court in a way fans hadn’t seen this season.
There have been some concerns about Randle’s attitude as Walton noted that he was frustrated at coming off the bench as opposed to starting. If he continues to play at this level his minutes won’t be an issue as Walton will have to keep him on the court.
Randle made the biggest difference on defense, which hasn’t been his strong suit in his career. He made things difficult on the Pelicans’ big man tandem of DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, coming up with steals, deflections, and altering shots in addition to the blocks he had.
When Randle is locked in he can be a difference maker for the Lakers and he showed it on Sunday night. Now the next step will be for him to keep that level of play consistently, which will only make the Lakers’ bench unit that much more dangerous.