SACRAMENTO, CA – Julius Randle was fined by the NBA Sunday through Monday.
This time it was Knicks’ turn to overcome a huge deficit and achieve a much-needed victory.
Randle exploded with a career-high 46 points to lead 44 points in the third quarter as the Knicks rebounded from 19 points in the first half to defeat the Kings 131-115 in a shootout in the Wild West for the Gold 1 spot.
“When he plays with that kind of intensity, he lifts everyone up,” said Tom Thibodeau. “He was attacking the basket, shooting all three, and playing hustle. It was a great all-round match of him.”
By winning a back-to-back California set against the Clippers and Kings, the Knicks recorded their first two-game winning streak since mid-January when they racked up three straight wins over San Antonio, Dallas and Atlanta.
The Knicks, at 27-38, moved 4 games behind the Hawks for the 10th-seeded and last-place finish of the Eastern Conference with 17 games. They have played well since the All-Star break and now they have something to show.
The suspect of the 3-point streak this season, Randle fired eight three-pointers (in 16 attempts) and fired 18-for-31 overall.
“I take an open look and just look forward to it,” Randall said of his three-point spoilage. “Just playing around and not guessing and shooting the open shot.”
It’s been a strange journey for Randall, Who received a $50,000 fine from the NBA Sunday for not taking part in the league lead in his Friday skirmish in Phoenix with Cam Johnson.
When asked about the fine, Randall paused and said, “Next question. I’m already in big trouble.”
RJ Barrett also had a big second half and finished with 27 points, Emmanuel Quikley also scored 27 points. Evan Fournier scored the start 0-4 to accumulate 15 points.
The Knicks exploded for a 35-17 start in the second half to wipe out 15 points in the first half. They scored 83 points in the second half, their most after the break since 1969. Randle scored 32 points in the second half.
“Julius had a lot to do with that,” Barrett said. “We all had a crazy rhythm. It’s fun moving the ball around and eating everyone.”
They died in the water in the first half, except for their spark plug center, Mitchell Robinson, who made two fouls in the first two minutes, was removed and then said to be suffering from an “illness”.
Randle scored 3 in the last minute of the third to give the Knicks a 92-87 lead and they escaped with it in the fourth quarter, keeping their key players up to the last two minutes.
The Knicks beat the Kings 44-24 for third, the most points they’ve scored in any period this season. Randle scored 17 goals in the quarter and was 30 to enter the last period.
The bad news was that Cam Reddish was injured. Rising to compete in a shot early in the fourth quarter, Reddish was flipped over by Davion Mitchell and fell badly, hitting his shoulder. Reddish remained on the ground holding his head, then was helped to grab his right shoulder with the 11:11 left. Thibodeau said he is still being tested after the match.
The Knicks also earned a daring defensive performance from rookie point guard Miles McBride. Late in the third game, McBride stole the ball from Mitchell and got a foul. In the next possession, McBride forced a jump ball.
The game started poorly as far as you will get. The Kings jumped 7-0, 12-2. Robinson made two fouls in the opening game 1:40, one in a 3-point play from Sabonis, who later ejected himself for arguing and hitting a referee.
Robinson was removed and rookie backup center Jericho Sims made three fouls. Instead of returning to Robinson, Thibodeau put veteran Taj Gibson on for the first time since the All-Star break.
Without Robinson, the Knicks defense afforded the Kings a lot of everything. De’Aaron Fox went to the basket with impunity, scoring in four easy attempts.
The Kings had as many as 20 points in the second quarter and led 63-48 into the break before everything collapsed and burned.
“We knew Sacramento was a good team but they’ve been known to give up,” said Quikley.
“We knew it would be difficult to get into the match because of the back-to-back matches and their speed,” said Tibodou. “Fox’s speed is a great test for you and we got into a hole early. But we never gave up and that was the best thing. We kept fighting and fighting. Then Julius took off and what he did all around was so cool.”
“We were getting on our legs and we were a little tired in the afternoon for noon,” Barrett added. “We needed those two wins.”
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