Lakers like Julius Randle's aggressive play in win over Nuggets

Lakers like Julius Randle's aggressive play in win over Nuggets
Lakers forward Julius Randle battles three Nuggets players for a rebound during their game Sunday evening. (Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

Lakers coach Luke Walton considered the question.

Why was Julius Randle so effective on Sunday night in the Lakers' 127-109 win over the Denver Nuggets? Why was he so aggressive and so active in the paint?


"I'm trying to figure that answer out," Walton said. "When he plays like he did tonight he's as good as anyone in this league. … We keep trying to encourage him to make that his norm."

Randle led all scorers with 24 points in 31 minutes. He also had seven rebounds and five assists with two turnovers.

"That's just me," Randle said. "We just have to be there every night for our team. That aggressive. That assertive, decisive, quick."

Randle came off the bench early in the first quarter, replacing rookie Kyle Kuzma, whom Walton wanted to bring back to start the second quarter. Randle made 11 of 18 shots, and had a plus/minus rating of 27 — better than all of his teammates except Lonzo Ball.

"When he plays hard, it's tough to deal with him," Ball said. "We love having him both offensively and defensively impact the game like you said and he's a great addition to our team."

Vets set the tone

Two veterans each notched an astonishing four steals for the Lakers on Sunday night — Corey Brewer and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

"Me and Brew came in, in that second unit and I told him that he completely changed the game," Randle said. "When we came out, he didn't have a point, but he completely changed the game — it was crazy. He did an amazing job."

Before the season started, Brewer assured reporters that the Lakers would be a top-10 defense, a lofty goal it seemed after years of being either the worst or among the worst defensive teams in the NBA. Last season the Lakers ranked last in defensive rating.

So far, Brewer has been right. The Lakers ranked fourth in defensive rating heading into Sunday's game. Only Boston, Portland and Oklahoma City are better.

Reason amid controversy

Walton didn't sound off on the back-and-forth between Ball's father, LaVar, and President Donald Trump. His reaction focused on the three UCLA players who returned from China this week after being questioned by police for shoplifting.

"To me it's all about the fact that we have three young college American students back at home," Walton said. "That's the most important thing. I'm not really into the whole argument back and forth. I'm just glad they're back home and able to be with their families and get their education."

Mum on ejections


Neither Denver coach Mike Malone nor center Nikola Jokic wanted to discuss their ejections from Sunday night's game.

"I just want to apologize to the Denver Nuggets," Jokic said. "I feel bad. I left my teammates alone there."

Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli