Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle ran rampant in the a 107-101 overtime victory against the Dallas Mavericks, barreling around and through defenders to get into the lane on offense, while snatching nearly every rebound in sight.
The effort led to Randle finishing with 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting to go with 15 rebounds in the win. but his offense wasn’t what most impressed Lakers head coach Luke Walton about the burly forward’s performance.
Instead, Walton said it was Randle’s work on the defensive end that really got him excited about the fourth-year forward’s potential, via the team’s Twitter account:
“He was really good. I tell Julius all the time, I have really high expectations for the player that he is going to become in this league. Because of that, I’m on him a lot. When he’s making mistakes that he’s trying and giving the effort to do the right thing, I’m totally OK with it. For the most part tonight, I thought he was really good. He was aggressive. I thought the best part of his game, even though he had points and rebounds, was the job he did on Harrison. It is not easy to guard Harrison Barnes in one-on-one situations. I thought Julius did a really, really nice job of that.”
Being able to force Harrison Barnes into tough looks was a key reason the Lakers were able to close out the game. That it came on the road was no small achievement for such a young team.
Additionally, the victory ended the Lakers’ 14-game losing streak against the Mavericks, and they couldn’t have done it without Randle.
He’s has made massive strides as a defender for the Lakers this season, and aside from the occasional low-effort dud, has been the team’s most consistent contributor on that end while switching and guarding all five positions at times.
Being able to defend multiple players was a point of emphasis the Lakers stressed for Randle when he was inserted into the starting lineup. Whether he stays with the Lakers this summer or not, his defensive progress has proved that Randle can be a key contributor for an NBA team moving forward.
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