Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle has seen his minutes fluctuate all season as head coach Luke Walton kept him on a short leash based on matchups and whether or not Randle seemed to be playing hard and have it going.
The Lakers lost to the Houston Rockets on Sunday night, but it certainly wasn’t because of the stellar play of Randle. He scored 14 points in the first quarter and finished with 29 points, 15 rebounds and six assists.
Randle was only slowed by fouling out midway through the first of the game’s two overtimes. Without Randle, the Lakers went on to drop the game in the second overtime.
But Walton told reporters following the loss that he was impressed with the way Randle played in his season-high 33 minutes, via the team’s official Twitter account:
“He did a great job of setting the tone with how fast he was playing. He was running into screens, he was rolling to the rim when he was catching in that trail position. Once he got his rhythm and his confidence going he made some really nice finishes. It was tough to see him foul out on that type of foul in that type of game but the way he started and the speed he was playing with got him in a good rhythm.”
Randle had several opportunities to finish at the rim, with 13 of his shot attempts taking place right at the cup, of wish he only missed one. Randle also continued to play solid defense of Rockets superstar James Harden on the other end of the floor.
Box-score stuffing like Randle managed against the Rockets, combined with is defense, is exactly why so many have clamored for him to play more than the 22.5 minutes he’s averaged so far this season.
If he keeps rolling like he did against Houston, it will be impossible for Walton to justify sitting him on the bench much going forward.
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