Rollin' In The Rye

Julius Randle is taking charge for the lowly Los Angeles Lakers

Credit: NBA

With the Los Angeles Lakers entering Friday night on a 8-game losing streak, Julius Randle stepped up as his team’s big man to get a 100-89 win against the Philadelphia 76ers.

The 22-year-old looked like a seasoned veteran against the 76ers’ young trio of centres, posting a season-high with 25 points on 10-13 FG, to go along with 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals in 33 minutes of action. After a couple of rough games, Randle stepped up for his team while they tried to remain in the playoff hunt in the Western Conference. It’s all about staying consistent and bringing “that fire” for Randle, who’s been playing solid basketball for the Lakers throughout the early stretches of the 2016-17 campaign and now he’s also starting to look like their leader on the court.

Randle has also taken it upon himself to become the Lakers’ vocal leader, and now he’s starting to look like it on the court.

“I think I can be more vocal, especially in crucial times when our team has to lock in,” Randle told Mark Medina of the Orange County Register. “I want to be vocal and bring even more energy for the team.”

In his 2 games prior to Friday night’s contest, Randle struggled – scoring a combined 8 points in that time span. On Saturday night, Randle would step up for his team when they truly needed him most.

Randle set the tone right from the beginning – creating for himself and his teammates against an equally young 76ers squad. He’d finish with a game-leading 9 points in the opening frame, while also helping his team start off with a double-digit lead. The 2nd quarter wouldn’t be as strong for Randle, but he’d still make some great plays in transition – finishing around the rim with a couple of strong dunks and grabbing offensive and defensive rebounds to contribute for his team. Randle would head into halftime with 13 points and 5 rebounds, leading his team to a 53-40 lead heading into the 2nd half.

In the 3rd quarter, Randle would get off to another strong start – finding Nick Young for a 3-pointer to open the frame, and then making a smooth layup over the top of Jahlil Okafor to claim 5 quick points for his team. Immediately after that bucket, Randle would continue distributing the basketball – finding D’Angelo Russell for a 3-point basket of his own to lead 3 straight successful Laker possessions.

The only thing that Randle couldn’t control in the game was his foul trouble, with him picking 3 fouls to put himself on the bench for the remainder of the 3rd quarter. The Lakers would head into the 4th quarter with a 74-64 lead, and they wouldn’t look back with Randle leading the way once again. The athletic big man would come out strong in the final frame, scoring 8 of his team’s 26 points to ultimately close out the 76ers.

Of all 3 of the Lakers’ cornerstone pieces in Randle, Russell and Brandon Ingram, it’s been the 6-foot-9 power forward from Kentucky who has stepped up the most in the Lakers’ 11-18 start.

On a team full of skilled guards, Randle brings a strong inside presence to the Lakers. Offensively, he can do it all by finishing around the rim and stretching the floor with his solid midrange jumper. Defensively, his athleticism and quickness allow him to guard smaller and more versatile forwards, while his strength gives him an opportunity to guard some of the biggest front court players in the league.

The Lakers still have a lot of work to do, but with a player like Randle they at least know they have someone who’s willing to take charge. Their next matchup will be against the league’s defending Champion, Cleveland Cavaliers, which will be another tough test for Randle. He’ll have to go against a rebounding monster Tristan Thompson, an ideal stretch 4 in Kevin Love, and a locomotive LeBron James, but at this point Randle looks confident to take on  any challenge coming the Lakers’ way.


All stats for this article are from NBA.com

You can follow Peter Ash on Twitter @peterash_

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