With victory over the Suns, the Lakers stay undefeated at home and revive the team’s first winning record since 2013

Lakers guard Nick Young (0) defends against Phoenix Suns forward Jared Dudley (3) going to the basket during the first half on Nov. 6.
Lakers guard Nick Young (0) defends against Phoenix Suns forward Jared Dudley (3) going to the basket during the first half on Nov. 6.
(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

Like something out of a WWE script, Julius Randle dribbled the ball about 20 feet from the basket and grinned in the direction of Phoenix center Tyson Chandler. The Staples Center crowd cheered him as he’d asked them to, in a fourth-quarter moment set up perfectly for a one-on-one battle to intensify a situation in which both Chandler and Randle already had received technical fouls.

But Randle didn’t take the bait.

The Lakers’ third-year power forward passed to Jordan Clarkson, who hit a three-pointer that put the Lakers up by 10 points with 1 minute 27 seconds to play. They went on to beat the Suns, 119-108, remaining undefeated at home. It’s the first time since Dec. 6, 2013, that the Lakers (4-3) have a winning record after having played multiple games.

The team won its third consecutive game and avoided a crash after Friday’s emotional victory over the Golden State Warriors.

“I don’t think we were satisfied,” Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell said. “We preached it yesterday. Preached it today. There’s no letdowns.”

Nick Young led the Lakers with 22 points and seven rebounds. He was also tasked with cooling off Suns guard Devin Booker, who caught fire late in the fourth quarter. Booker finished the game with 39 points — 29 in the second half. He helped the Suns make a late push that had them within one point with five minutes to play.


Randle and Clarkson both finished with 18 points.

“They’re more mature than I think a lot of people would guess or give them credit for,” Lakers Coach Luke Walton said. “. . . We had a big lead after the first quarter because of the way we defended. That shows that these guys want to win, they’re engaged.

“I don’t have expectations. I came into this job with an open mind. They’ve proven, they haven’t shown me anything to say that they’re immature other than the age of a lot of them. They’ve come to work every single day since we’ve been here, even before training camp. Their actions speak loud. They’re grown men that are in this to get better and to be as good as they can.”

One play in particular encapsulated that growth and maturity. The Lakers had earned a seven-point cushion late in the fourth quarter when Randle and Chandler began to jostle with each other. Fans took note and Randle egged them on, lifting his arms to the crowd.

“I don’t know. I was just trying to bring the energy,” Randle said. “Maybe I was psyching myself up, I don’t know.”

Ultimately both men were assessed technical fouls. Then Randle got the ball on the perimeter and seemed poised to drive to the basket.

Walton saw this unfold while standing at half court, pondering calling a timeout.

“I tell Julius all the time I want him in attack mode,” Walton said. “But because of the situation of how it played out, I didn’t want him going one on one, that’s not what we want to do.”

Walton didn’t call a timeout, opting instead to see how Randle responded. It would serve as a teaching moment if Randle chose wrong. Instead, Randle kicked the ball out to Clarkson, who scored to give the Lakers a 107-97 lead.

“It’s everything we want,” Walton said. “It’s [Randle] using a brain. Him being competitive and fighting for the team and making an unselfish play to a teammate who knocks down a big-time three.”

There was no question in Randle’s mind that he would make that decision.

“Tyson was ready to take the challenge but there was no challenge,” Randle said. “I feel like I’m past that. I’m passed getting caught up in the emotions. I want to make winning basketball plays. That’s all it’s about.”

Twitter: @taniaganguli


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