Lonzo Ball returned to the Lakers lineup Friday night, but Julius Randle stole the show.
Randle notched his fifth career triple-double with 18 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists as the Lakers beat the Dallas Mavericks 124-102.
“I was just trying to play to my strengths,” Randle said. “Use my advantages and be patient.”
Randle was just two assists shy of the triple-double when he checked back into the game with 7:32 left in the fourth quarter. He knew it, too. His 10th assist went to Brandon Ingram.
“I think he just did a really nice job tonight or reading the defense and making the simple play and then guys knocked down shots for him,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said.
With the win, the Lakers improved to 24-34 while the Mavericks fell to 18-41. Randle’s last triple-double was also against the Mavericks, his hometown team.
Ball waited 41 days to get back on the court after injuring the medial collateral ligament in his left knee on Jan. 13. Once his name was called, he had to wait a little bit longer.
As Ball and Isaiah Thomas checked into the game with 6:01 left in the first quarter, they incurred a delay of game penalty.
“I forgot I had my shirt on over the warmups,” Ball said sheepishly. “I was trying to zip it and it wasn’t going down. I looked and I had to take it out.”
The Lakers led 20-5 when Ball finally entered the game to loud cheers, and immediately sank a three-pointer. Walton said he liked the way the ball moved with both players on the court.
“When you have two point guards on the court it’s gonna move,” said Ball, who said he enjoyed sharing the court with Thomas. “Either side has a playmaker on it.”
It was the first game all season that Ball played in but did not start. He played all of his 17 minutes with Thomas also on the floor. Ball was on a minutes restriction of about 20 minutes.
Ball had a strong game in his return. He finished with nine points, seven rebounds and six assists after missing 15 games. Ball will not play on Saturday when the Lakers face the Sacramento Kings to start a four-game trip.
While he said he felt OK coming out of the game, Ball did say he noticed the injury at times.
“I can feel it but the doc says I can get no worse so that’s why I’m back on the court,” Ball said.
Veteran forward Channing Frye was not with the team Friday and won’t be during its four-game road trip. Frye is recovering from a laparoscopic appendectomy he underwent on Feb. 16.