Los Angeles — Draymond Green spent Friday afternoon texting Los Angeles Lakers head coach Walton about how he couldn’t sleep because he was so excited about what he planned to do to the Lakers when they played the Golden State Warriors on Friday night. He may regret the lack of rest, because he probably won’t be sleeping much after Julius Randle rumbled to a nightmare inducing 20 points and 14 rebounds in the Lakers 117-97 win.
“He’s a monster,” Walton said of Randle. “He’s as big, strong and quick as anyone in the league.”
Randle showed all of those qualities and more all night against Golden State, and he wasn’t the only young Lakers power forward to impress. Larry Nance, Jr. was additionally impressive, notching 12 points to go with nine rebounds in just over 30 minutes off the bench.
The two forwards offer different skillsets. Randle is more known for his scoring and rebounding, whereas Nance is a better defender who offers more athleticism.
"When I get my two steps, there's not too many that can jump with me,” Nance said following the win, and we can remove David West from that exclusive list:
More critical than Randle leading the Lakers in scoring and rebounding or Nance emphatically pointing out the Warriors’ lack of rim protection was the two providing evidence they can play together.
All summer long, whether the Lakers were better off with Randle or Nance going forward was debated, but the two aren’t exactly feuding over minutes or role. Randle was the first player to dap up Nance on the bench following his big jam, and Nance glowed about Randle’s game.
“He's been playing really well, and I'm super happy for him because he deserves it,” Nance said. “I saw all the work he put in over the summer and he's played really, really well.”
The two also played well together, and a rebuilding team like the Lakers is far better off if they don’t have to choose between the two. For at least one night, they didn’t.
“When we can keep two of those guys on the court against a small lineup, it gives us a big advantage if we're being aggressive on the glass,” Walton said. “I think that was a big key for us tonight."
As the Warriors mounted their final effort to comeback, Walton showed confidence in the duo, rolling with Nance and Randle at the four and five spots for the Lakers down the stretch.
Randle entered the game with 9:03 seconds remaining, and from that point forward the Lakers’ offensive rating jumped to 123 and the Warriors’ dropped to 66.7. If those rates held, the Lakers would’ve outscored the Warriors by 56.4 points per 100 possessions.
That’s obviously not a sustainable rate, but the type of play that lineup flashed is, and the Lakers have outscored their opponents by 6.3 points per 100 possessions so far this season when Randle and Nance share the floor. They demonstrated why in the closing quarter.
Randle kicked things off when he laid the ball in with his oft-criticized right hand with under seven minutes remaining, staring at the little used appendage in mock disbelief to celebrate:
On the next possession, Randle blocked Green (the player his coach says he wants him to model his game after) with the same arm:
Which he followed soon thereafter by a tip in to push the lead to 105-87:
“When he's playing in attack mode, I don't mean attack mode like looking to score, I mean attack mode like hitting the offensive glass, setting quick [dribble hand-offs], shooting when he's open, passing when the defense collapses, that type of attack mode, he is a monster,” Walton said.
Nance also had his moments to shine. He used his activity to his advantage to get back in transition and deflect the ball two possessions later:
Nance followed it up by hustling for a (still incredibly lucky) tip in with 5:13 left to push the Lakers’ lead to 18:
That basket drew jazz hands from Jack Nicholson, and capped a strong performance for Nance.
"He was great,” Luol Deng said of Nance. “He played with a lot of energy, and he comes off the bench and gives us a great lift."
Yes, the Lakers had a huge lead, and yes, the Warriors didn’t play their best. Those caveats aside, real, tangible evidence that the Nance-Randle frontcourt can work is huge for Los Angeles. Nance and Randle are also just enjoying the chance to play together.
“It's a lot of fun being able to switch 1-5, being able to switch on to a center then a point guard and then back on to the center,” Nance said. “Having both of us be able to roll down the lane and make plays for one another is going to be really beneficial for us down the road."
A big win against the Warriors as Nance and Randle gelled offered hope that the end of that road could be closer than many predicted.
“Absolutely not,” Randle said when asked if he was surprised the Lakers managed to upset Golden State. "We see how good we are."
If Randle and Nance continue to play this good, Draymond Green won’t be the only one struggling to sleep, and Lakers’ opponents’ insomnia won’t be from excitement to play against them.
All stats per NBA.com. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.