LOS ANGELES — After practice on Thursday, Lakers guard Isaiah Thomas had a simple response when asked what his personal goal was for the 25 games that remained after the All-Star break.
“Win,” Thomas said.
The Lakers made good on that goal at least for one night with Friday’s 124-102 blowout win over the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center.
Julius Randle led the Lakers with a triple-double of 18 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 15 and six rebounds, and Lonzo Ball had nine points, seven rebounds and six assists in his first game back after missing the last 15 with a sprained left MCL.
The Lakers held the Mavericks to just 40.7% shooting overall on what was all-around defensive effort. Los Angeles also outrebounded Dallas 61-29.
“I thought the way we were locked in and following the scouting report and the game plan was really much better tonight than it was pre-All-Star break,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said of the defensive effort.
When he entered the game in the fourth quarter, Randle knew that he was only two assists away from his fifth-career triple-double. His pass to Kuzma was accurate, but Kuzma missed a dunk, much to the chagrin of Randle.
“I threw it to Kuz, a dime, and he thought he was Dr. J and tried to go on the other side,” Randle said. “It didn’t work out. But he made up for it. He made the 3, so it’s cool.”
Thomas scored 17 points and added four assists off the bench. Kuzma caught fire in the fourth quarter and finished the game with 12 points.
Randle recorded his 10th assist and secured the triple-double after passing out of a double team to Brandon Ingram, who made a 3-pointer to give the Lakers a 117-94 lead midway through the fourth quarter. The Lakers led by as 23.
After a pair of three pointers by the Mavericks caused the Lakers to take an early timeout just 50 seconds into the third quarter, Los Angeles responded with a run that included Caldwell-Pope making two 3-pointers and Randle giving the Lakers a 80-58 with less than six minutes to play in the third quarter.
Dallas started the second quarter with an 11-2 run to close within eight. Ball made two consecutive 3-pointers to give Los Angeles a 42-29 lead with 8:17 remaining in the first half.
The Lakers went on an 8-0 run to regain their 18-point lead. They extended it to 22 just before the half ended and took a 63-41 lead.
BACK TO BALLIN’
Ball returned after missing the last six weeks with a left MCL injury, and said he felt good while doing it. He played 17 minutes, which Walton said was a couple minutes off his restriction.
“I’m just happy to be back,” Ball said. “I’m glad to get back on the court.”
Ball said his timing was off a little bit, and he felt his knee while sliding to the right, but was not restricted. He will not play Saturday in Sacramento.
KUZ IN TROUBLE?
Kuzma appeared in a Yahoo Sports report detailing the names of several current and former college athletes who allegedly took payments while in school from former NBA agent Andy Miller and his agency, ASM Sports.
Kuzma accepted “at least $9,500” while in school at Utah University, according to documents detailed in the report. His name showed up in expense reports from Christian Dawkins, a former associate of Miller who was arrested in late September and faces felony charges in two criminal cases tied to the federal investigation into potential NCAA violations.
Before Friday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks, Kuzma declined to comment, stating that it was a legal matter. He neither confirmed nor denied whether the report was true. He said he and his team are trying to gather all the relevant information.
Asked if he was concerned about the matter, Kuzma replied, “Nothing. Not at all.”
Student-athletes are prohibited by the NCAA to receive additional compensation or benefits while in school because they are considered amateurs, not professionals. Kuzma advocates payment for athletes, and has been vocal on social media about his views regarding the issue.
Mavericks: Play the Utah Jazz on the road today on the second night of a back-to-back.
Lakers: Travel to Sacramento to play the Kings today on the second night of a back-to-back.