DEFENSE. And Julius Randle. And RJ Barrett. And Passing. NY 112 Sacramento 99

The Knicks used DEFENSE and Julius Randle‘s offense to jump out to a big lead and hold it throughout to crush the Sacramento Kings on a Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.

Julius Randle lit up the 1st half with 27 points, then lost his temper on a missed non-call and got 2 techs and tossed in the 3rd quarter — the Knicks up 13 at the time. RJ Barrett picked up where Julius Randle left off to finish with 27 points as well — and the Knicks DEFENSE continued to thwart any ideas Sacramento had of coming back.

“I liked the start of the game,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “I thought we had good intensity; good energy on both sides of the ball. And then it got a little choppy; but every time it got a little choppy we responded. I thought a lot of guys stepped up and played well for us.”

It was the Knicks’ 4th win in a row — over the Kings who were 14-10 coming in, although they were without their star point guard De’Aaron Fox. With the win NY improves to 14-13.

The story:

1. Randle On FIRE. Then Gets FIRED UP and Tossed

Julius Randle was ON FIRE early and into the 2nd quarter — attacking, attacking, attacking, penetrating, passing, hitting his 3, vocally leading the team. He set a personal career record with 27 points in the 1st half as the Knicks jumped out to a 19-point lead that was 16 at the half.

And then with 3:35 left in the 3rd quarter and NY up 13, Randle went inside for a bucket after an offensive rebound and was fouled — going down to the floor as the ball went back the other way. It appeared Harrison Barnes went straight up to defend Randle’s shot, and may have made incidental contact, but Domantas Sabonis put his hand into Randle’s back.

Randle was livid and jawed with rookie referee Robert Hussy, who finally T-d him up. Randle then walked over to one of the veteran referees and got T-d again — it was as if he was looking to get tossed.


“It’s an emotional game,” said coach Tom Thibodeau. “When he got the first one, we have to do a better job too of helping him walk away. As a team, staff — all of us. I get the frustration. It was a physical game. He got Hammered on a play. But he can’t let that.. he had a great game going. We can’t let that get us sidetracked. There’s going to be some missed calls. Just keep competing. But when a guy gets frustrated, we gotta make sure we help him. Just an awareness; go grab him.”

2. Barrett Picks Up Where Randle Left Off

RJ Barrett entered the game for Randle after he was tossed, and immediately hit a 3 to up the Knick lead back to 16. From there on out — it was Barrett doing the heavy scoring. He finished with 27 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals — shooting 9-21 from floor (2-6 from 3, 7-9 free throws).

Randle’s final line was 27 pts, 8 rebounds, 3 assists on 9-20 shooting (3-11 from 3 and 6-6 in free throws).

3. Knick DEFENSE

But the Knick DEFENSE was the ultimate hero as the maniacal backcourt tandem of Quentin Grimes, Miles McBride, and Immanuel Quickley, with Jalen Brunson and Barrett and then Mitchell Robinson at center, shut down the Kings offense throughout the night, causing turnovers and in some cases fast breaks in the other direction.

Sabonis was a tough cover — as he got inside a lot and drew fouls; but other than that Sacramento was held in check.

4. Knicks Passed Well

Flying below the radar of the Knicks’ great Defense was their excellent passing on offense, all night. Whenever Sacramento tried to make a run, the Knicks defense responded — and the Knick offense also responded with team-oriented ball movement.

5. Hartenstein Glue

Isaiah Hartenstein continues to play a head’s up, hustling game — rebounding, diving for loose balls, defending, hitting floaters in the lane, alley oops, or 3’s — doing everything imaginable to help the team win. He had only 4 points but 9 rebounds and a team-leading +18 in 26 minutes.

Jericho Sims played 8 minutes in the 3rd and 4th to help compensate for the loss of Randle, and played well.


Jalen Brunson took a nasty fall in the 3rd quarter on a drive, but stayed in the game, only to leave the game with a sprained ankle early in the 4th when Davion Mitchell fell on his foot after a drive. Brunson was playing a heads-up game — constantly penetrating the lane and hitting his floater. He had 18 points and a +17 in 27 minutes.

The Boxscore


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