Ran­dle’s 36 lead Lak­ers past LeBron’s Cavs, 127-113

Sun.Star Baguio - - PRIME SPORTS -

LOS AN­GE­LES — If this game was a Hol­ly­wood au­di­tion, the young Los An­ge­les Lak­ers cer­tainly did well enough to im­press bud­ding en­ter­tain­ment mogul LeBron James.

The Lak­ers will have to wait un­til sum­mer to find out whether they earned a call­back — or maybe even got the part.

Julius Ran­dle had a ca­reer-high 36 points, 14 re­bounds and seven as­sists, and the Lak­ers put on a show in front of James with a 127-113 vic­tory over the Cleve­land Cava­liers.

Isa­iah Thomas had 20 points, nine as­sists and five re­bounds against his for­mer team­mates as the Lak­ers roared away from the de­fend­ing East­ern Con­fer­ence cham­pi­ons in the sec­ond half with their exciting, en­er­getic style un­der coach Luke Wal­ton.

The Lak­ers looked hun­gry, exciting and full of po­ten­tial. They hope that’s at­trac­tive to James, who can be a free agent this sum­mer.

“Since Luke took over, they’ve im­proved ev­ery sin­gle sea­son, I think,” said James, who had 24 points, 10 re­bounds and seven as­sists. “They just try to im­ple­ment that ball move­ment, that body move­ment that he got when he was in Golden State.”

Although no­body on ei­ther side is able to talk about it yet, this game seemed to carry added im­por­tance for both the Lak­ers and James, who will be at a cross­roads shortly in his in­cred­i­ble ca­reer.

Magic John­son has spent the past year mak­ing moves — in­clud­ing the trade that sent Larry Nance Jr. and Jor­dan Clark­son to Cleve­land last month — to get the Lak­ers into prime salary-cap po­si­tion to chase elite free agents this sum­mer. The top name on that list is likely to be James, who has a player op­tion for next year.

The three-time NBA cham­pion al­ready has a $23 mil­lion man­sion in Brent­wood and a bur­geon­ing ca­reer in en­ter­tain­ment pro­duc­tion, so a move to LA could be a log­i­cal step. But James is un­likely to join a team that can’t im­me­di­ately con­tend for cham­pi­onships with his ad­di­tion.

The Lak­ers’ en­tire sea­son has been de­signed to prove their young core of Lonzo Ball, Brandon In­gram, Kyle Kuzma and prob­a­bly Ran­dle could fit splen­didly around James, Paul Ge­orge or DeMar­cus Cousins — or fail­ing that, the top free agents in the class of 2019.

The Lak­ers’ exciting per­for­mance against Cleve­land un­der­lined that no­tion, for what­ever it’s worth in James’ mind.And Los An­ge­les didn’t even show off the full scope of its young tal­ent: Ball strug­gled with his shot on the way to seven as­sists and five points, while top scorer In­gram missed his fifth straight game with a groin strain and rookie Josh Hart re­mained out with a bro­ken hand.

But James got an up­close look at Ran­dle, who drew a one-on-one de­fen­sive matchup with James while the Lak­ers made their sec­ond-half surge. The Lak­ers would have to do some se­ri­ous ma­neu­ver­ing to re-sign Ran­dle while adding two max free agents, but it’s pos­si­ble.

“I had the chal­lenge of guard­ing the best player in the game, so you know I loved to take that chal­lenge and take it per­son­ally,” Ran­dle said. “But he’s an amaz­ing player. There’s not much you can do.”

Nance had 16 points and eight re­bounds, and Clark­son added four points in their first game against the Lak­ers since they were traded for Thomas and Chan­ning Frye on Feb. 8.

With its sixth win in eight games over­all, Los An­ge­les (30-36) em­phat­i­cally snapped a seven-game los­ing streak against Cleve­land. Brook Lopez scored 22 points for the Lak­ers, and Ken­tavi­ous Cald­well-Pope added 20.

The Cavs have lost four of six after get­ting swept at Sta­ples Cen­ter by the Clippers and Lak­ers. AP

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