LOS ANGELES (AP) — Julius Randle had a career-high 36 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists, and the Los Angeles Lakers auditioned for LeBron James’ favor in free agency with a 127-113 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night.
Isaiah Thomas had 20 points, nine assists and five rebounds against his former teammates as the Lakers roared away from James and the defending Eastern Conference champions in the second half. With its sixth win in eight games overall, Los Angeles (30-36) emphatically snapped a seven-game losing streak against Cleveland.
James had 24 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists for the Cavs, who have lost four of six after getting swept at Staples Center by the Clippers and Lakers.
The Cavs were no match for Randle, who produced one of the most impressive games of his career. The bruising forward scored 23 points in the second half and went 14 for 18 from the field overall before leaving to a huge late ovation.
Thomas also shone in his first game against the Cavs since they traded him to Los Angeles last month and ended their brief attempt to replace Kyrie Irving with the undersized scoring machine. He scored eight points in 2 ½ minutes early in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
Starting center Larry Nance Jr. had 24 points and eight rebounds, and Jordan Clarkson added four points in their first game against the Lakers since they were traded for Thomas and Channing Frye on Feb. 8.
Brook Lopez scored 22 points for the Lakers, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 20.
James put on his usual stunning display at Staples, including a breathtaking, one-handed pass late in the first half. But he spent the final minutes on the bench after the Lakers showed off their potential by running away.
Magic Johnson acknowledged the Lakers swung last month’s trade with Cleveland to get into prime salary-cap position to chase elite free agents this summer — and the top name on that list will be James.
The three-time NBA champion already has a reported $23 million mansion in Brentwood and a burgeoning career as an entertainment mogul, so a move to Hollywood could be a logical step off the court for the 33-year-old veteran.
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 would fit splendidly around James, Paul George or DeMarcus Cousins — or failing that, the top free agents in the class of 2019.
The Lakers’ solid effort against Cleveland underlined that notion, for whatever it’s worth in James’ mind. And Los Angeles’ top young talent wasn’t even completely on the court: Top scorer Brandon Ingram missed his fifth straight game with a groin strain, while rookie Josh Hart remains out with a broken hand.
Cavaliers: Kyle Korver scored 12 points while playing with a bruised right foot. … Cleveland dressed only 11 players with several long-term injuries. UCLA product Kevin Love remains sidelined with a broken hand.
Lakers: Ingram was re-evaluated Sunday. He is progressing well, but the Lakers expect him to miss at least two more games. … Fans near courtside included Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, Chargers Pro Bowl receiver Keenan Allen, Rams All-Pro running back Todd Gurley, comedians Jerrod Carmichael and Marlon Wayans and former Lakers forward Lamar Odom.
OH HELLO THERE
With the Lakers up 16 points in the fourth quarter, Magic spent a timeout greeting James’ agent, Rich Paul, and his longtime manager, Maverick Carter, at their courtside seats.
Thomas’ parting with Cleveland wasn’t harmonious, and he showed off his elite scoring form. After the 5-foot-9 dynamo rebounded his own missed 3-pointer and hit a key jumper late in the third quarter, he took a long look in the direction of the Cavs’ bench and coach Tyronn Lue — or maybe just at Floyd Mayweather, his good friend sitting next to Jack Nicholson.
Cavaliers: At the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night.
Lakers: Host the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night.
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