Short-handed and on the second night of a back-to-back, the Los Angeles Lakers came back from 14 points down to beat the Chicago Bulls, 96-90, on Wednesday night.
Lakers forward Julius Randle battled on the boards and tied a career-high with 20 rebounds to go along with 13 points, which led the Lakers' starters in scoring. The 22-year-old scored the go-ahead bucket on a spin move with 45.1 seconds remaining in the game and seemed to be the emotional leader on the court.
"He took it upon himself," Lakers coach Luke Walton said on Spectrum Sportsnet about Randle's fight and competitive spirit after the game. "I was proud of him. We tried to take him off of Taj Gibson. Taj hurt us last game, so we wanted to put a bigger body on him. Julius took it upon himself. He wanted the matchup."
Walton added, "I love the accountability he wants. Not only to say you want it but to go out and get 20 rebounds and back it up is impressive."
The Lakers were without their starting backcourt, as Nick Young had been ruled out for a minimum of two weeks with a calf strain earlier in the day. D'Angelo Russell remained sidelined with a sore knee.
"Our guys have proven that when their backs are against the wall, that they can step up for a challenge," Walton said about his team not folding under the adverse circumstances. "They did it tonight. That's a great win against a very good team."
Along with being short-handed, the Lakers fell behind early, as the Bulls doubled the Lakers' score at 28-14 in the first quarter. Rather than fold and use the multitude of excuses available to them, the Lakers showed incredible fight and finished the first half level at 47-47.
Rookie Brandon Ingram, who earned the start in the makeshift lineup, played a career-high 41 minutes and contributed in a variety of ways, even if his 1-9 shooting numbers did not exactly jump out of the box score. Ingram's length played a role in disrupting shots on the defensive side of the ball.
As has become a familiar trend, the Lakers looked to their bench to fill the scoring need. Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams each scored 18 points to lead the team in scoring. Larry Nance Jr. scored 12 points to go along with his 11 rebounds off the bench, as well. The bench outscored the starters 56-40.
However, the broken record inside the Lakers' locker room after the game sounded out the same word: "defense." The coach pointed out that Wednesday night was the first game the Lakers had won where they did not score 100 points.
Walton said, "All we talked about pregame was defense. That's it. Defense. Win or lose, let's get better. They were good tonight."
Notes: Jimmy Butler scored 40 point when these two teams played at Staples Center on Nov. 20. On Wednesday, Butler finished with 22 points on 4-18 shooting, including a potential game-tying air ball in the final minute. The Lakers committed 23 turnovers in the win but managed to get extra possessions by out-rebounding the Bulls 60-46. LA is now 10-10 on the season.