The jawing continued as Julius Randle and Tyson Chandler ran down the court and established themselves in the post. Once the officials separated the two and reviewed the scuffle, Randle threw his hands up as a sign to encourage the crowd to express themselves. And after the officials looked at the sequence on the television monitors, they issued double technical fouls for each player.
The claps, cheers and jeers began to crescendo. Then the sound peaked after what happened next. Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell inbounded the ball near the top of the key to Randle, setting up a potential play to further antagonize Chandler by going one-on-one.
That left Lakers coach Luke Walton standing near halfcourt, debating to himself on whether he should call a timeout.
Although Walton has preached to Randle to get in “attack mode,” the Lakers’ coach feared that approach would backfire on that specific play. Yet, former Lakers coach Phil Jackson also has become what Walton called “a big influence in the way I try to coach,” including how Jackson had abstained from calling timeouts at critical times in hopes his players would figure it out for themselves.
“Let’s see what happens,” Walton thought to himself. “If it doesn’t work out, it’s a great teaching moment.”
It turns out the decision worked out.
Randle stared at Chandler as if he would charge down the lane at any second. But just as he saw Phoenix guard Devin Booker turn his head toward him, Randle whipped a pass to Jordan Clarkson for an open 3-pointer. Clarkson drained the shot, something that Walton called a “winning play” as part of the Lakers’ 119-108 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday at Staples Center.
“It’s everything we want,” Walton said. “It’s him using his brain, him being competitive and him fighting for the team and making an unselfish play to a teammate who knocks a big-time 3.”
That play did more than just give the Lakers a 107-97 cushion with 1:27 left. It also revealed Randle’s thought process.
“I didn’t get caught up in the emotions of me and him going at it. I just read how they were playing it,” said Randle, who added 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting, five rebounds and four assists. “I’m past being caught up in the emotions I want to win.”