LAS VEGAS -- It wasn’t quite Magic Johnson jumping into Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s arms when The Captain made a buzzer-beating skyhook to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a win in Johnson’s first game as a pro. But there certainly was some unbridled enthusiasm on display after L.A. beat the Golden State Warriors 89-88 in overtime at the Las Vegas summer league Monday.
The Lakers’ bench stormed the court to celebrate and surrounded Clarkson -- the No. 46 pick in the second round of this year’s draft whom L.A. believed so much in that it paid Washington $1.8 million for his rights on draft night.
Clarkson finished with a team-high 19 points on the night, keeping right on pace with his 18.5 points per game average through the Lakers’ previous two summer league games. But this was his finest performance.
“I think Clarkson has great explosiveness going to the basket. He has a tremendous pull-up jumper,” said Mark Madsen, the Lakers’ associate head coach in Las Vegas, along with Larry Lewis. “But the thing about Jordan Clarkson is he’s always at the right place at the right time. And we saw that on the tip-in.
“With 0.5 seconds left, he was there. He tipped it in. It was a soft-touch tip-in, and that got us the win.”
Clarkson said it was just his second winning shot of his basketball career, the first coming back in high school.
It capped a great night for him, as he added seven rebounds, shot 2-for-4 from the 3-point line (he’s shooting 50 percent overall on 3s through three games) and limited his turnovers to just two after averaging double that in his first two games.
“I’m really just playing my game,” Clarkson said. “Just being comfortable with myself, getting to know my teammates and just learning to play with them. I feel like we got room to grow and it’s just going to keep getting better.”
And while Randle missed his shot to be the hero, he was better against the Warriors than he was in his debut Sunday, putting up 14 points, four rebounds, three assists and a block in 28 minutes.
“I felt great,” Randle said, getting through the back-to-back games -- his first five-on-five action since the NCAA national championship back in early April. “My wind was a lot better today. Physically I felt great in how I was moving and stuff. Just overall, how I was moving and the flow of the game, I felt pretty good.”
And it wasn’t just the fact that he was out there, but the way he approached the game, seeking face-up opportunities to put the ball on the floor and go at his man.
“If I was a big trying to guard Julius Randle, he’s very difficult to guard because he’s so good with the ball,” Madsen said. “He has the skills of a point guard in the frame and the body size of a 6-9, 250-pound man.
“You can’t guard him one-on-one. And that’s what we saw tonight. Julius is a matchup nightmare for people.”
Of course, Randle was his own worst enemy at times, coughing up a team-high five turnovers, including a sloppy one with less than two minutes left in regulation when he had the ball stripped from him as he attempted a behind-the-back dribble in traffic after taking it coast to coast.
“That’s something that you show to Julius on tape the next day,” Madsen said. “I didn’t want to take away his aggressiveness out there in terms of just allowing him to attack. Before the game we talked about, ‘Hey, we put the whole game plan up. You can follow the game plan to a T.’ But ultimately we just [ask] them to be aggressive.
“So I’d rather have an error, like [John] Wooden used to say, an error of commission rather than an error of omission.”
Without the benefit of examining game tape yet, Randle vowed to continue to show off his ballhandling abilities when asked if he’d play the same way when the regular season rolls around.
“I think it’s a part of my game, whether it’s creating for myself or creating for others,” Randle said. “So, I think so.”
You better believe based on the early results the Lakers think they did pretty well for themselves on draft night.