Julius Randle scores 36 as Isaiah Thomas scores 20 in the first game versus the Cavs
With the Houston Rockets becoming the first team in the Western Conference to clinch a playoff berth and 4 teams already eliminated, the Los Angeles Lakers are in dire need of a strong momentum heading into the final stretch of the season.
Facing off against their potential future leader, LeBron James and the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers while not having their best player in Brandon Ingram who was in attendance but in street clothes, the odds were stacked up against the Purple and Gold.
If anything, this game served as an audition for the Lakers as they beat the Cavs, 127-113. With the win, the Lakers have hiked their win count to 30, the first time since Kobe Bryant had Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace as teammates. And more importantly, this big victory over Cleveland has kept the Lakers alive in the race for a playoff spot.
Audition you say?
Let's not forget that LeBron James has been rumored to be moving westward towards the Lakers and if they could beat the Cavs while being shorthanded, it means that the Lakers could be a great destination for LeBron should he decides to leave Cleveland, anew.
So how did the Lakers beat the Cavs?
Julius Randle's 36 points
Since the trade deadline, Julius Randle has been playing terrific basketball to the point that it's actually making the fans want the Lakers to re-sign him this July. And he hasn't stopped proving to us that he does deserve to be with the Lakers.
Against the King, Randle was simply unstoppable as he led the Lakers with 36 points- a new career-high. He went 14 for 18 from the field and added 14 rebounds and 7 assists to an incredible stat-line. The Lakers should definitely keep this guy.
Isaiah Thomas Continues to Impress
The stint of Isaiah Thomas with the Lakers has been expected by many as a one-time deal considering the fact that the Lakers are aiming to sign two big stars this July.
With the way IT has been playing as of late, the Lakers might want to check their options.
Against his former team whom he didn't expect that they would trade him, Isaiah Thomas walked out as a victor in his first encounter against Cleveland as he scored 20 points on 7 for 16 from the field. Although he shot 2 for 7 from the three-point line, he did have 5 rebounds and 9 assists- many of which to Randle on pick-and-roll plays.
LeBron's 9 for 20 Shooting
LeBron James is virtually unguardable but that doesn't mean you cannot limit his output. Sure, he scored 24 points but the beauty of it, the Lakers' defense made the King bleed for his points as he went 9 for 20 from the field including a 2 for 8 shooting from downtown. He ended up spending the last few minutes on the bench, coming up his beard with his fingers and probably thinking: "Should I join them after all?"
The Cavs are continuing with their freefall in the Eastern Conference as they now sit in 4th place with a 38-28 record. Mind you, the Washington Wizards are just half a game behind them so the Cavs might wanna pick up the pace as soon as possible.
On the other hand, making the playoffs is still mathematically possible for the Lakers but realistically, probably. Why? The Lakers still have a relatively easy schedule for their final 16 games. Who knows? They have already beaten the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors earlier this season. If they can beat them again, the playoffs is for the Lakers to reach. After all, they are only 7 and a half games behind the Los Angeles Clippers who are currently in 8th place in the West.