Julius Randle SPECTACULAR. NY 115 Washington 109

Julius Randle made spectacular drives all night long, and hit spectacular clutch 3’s while being heavily guarded — to score 46 points and blast the Knicks to a 115-109 win in Washington on a Friday night.

Randle and the Knick defense pulled the Knicks back from a 19-point, early-2nd-quarter deficit to come within 4 at the half and take a lead in the 3rd. The game then see-sawed back and forth until the final 4 minutes, when the Knicks took charge — again with Randle making clutch drives and 3’s.

Randle was on Fire all night — finishing 7-14 from 3, and 16-29 overall (6-6 in free throws).

“It was terrific. Big shot after big shot,” said coach Tom Thibodeau of Randle’s performance. “We withstood the flurry at the start of the game. And then as the game went on, our defense got a lot better. I thought Mitch gave us really good minutes, for first game back; to shake off the rust and do what he did. Josh with some big loose balls at the end; big rebounds. Quick gave us good minutes. So a number of contributions.”

Thibodeau noted the Knicks defense got better and better as the evening progressed: “38 in the 1st quarter, and then better each quarter going forward. And once we got lost in the game, we started getting some stops and the rebounding was good — and the movement without the ball — we got some easy buckets and that got us going.”

NY improves to 34-27 in the first game after the All Star break. Washington falls to 28-30. Washington is a good team with high scorers — but the game seemed to be two ships passing in the night, with the Knicks headed for a higher place — in the standings and deeper playoff run — as they were able to take all that the Wizards could dish, and then steadfastedly win the game in the end.

1. Porzingis Started Out On Fire; Knicks Put the Fire Out

It had been a long All Star break — over a week off. Washington came out on fire, especially Kristaps Porzingis who scored 19 points in the 1st quarter, going 5-5 from 3. The Wizards overall started the game 12-18 from 3, helping them to an 11-point lead after the 1st quarter, which they upped to a 19-point lead early in the 2nd quarter.

It was Mitchell Robinson‘s first game back after a month-plus-long absence due to the thumb injury and surgery. He did not skip a beat — was dominant defensively all night — and finished with 10 points on 5-6 shooting and 12 rebounds.

But Robinson was not getting out to challenge Porzingis’s 3 in the 1st quarter.

The Knicks changed their defensive strategy. Porzingis would not score again until late in the 4th quarter, when he made 4 free throws — to finish with 23 points.

“We just adjusted our coverages,” said Julius Randle afterwards about the change in D on KP. “We gave him a lot of wide open looks off the pick and pop. We adjusted our coverages — took away his air space on his catch and shoot, made him put it on the ground — and we were successful at that.”

Credit Isaiah Hartenstein for some of that D on Porzingis outside, as well as the Knicks changing their approach.

2. Randle Dominated

Meanwhile Julius Randle started cooking. He hit 3’s. He hit SPECTACULAR drives to the bucket. He took over.

Randle didn’t just dominate, and score 46 points, and lead the Knicks to a win. He painted a Pablo Picasso of a basketball evening.

And down the stretch, it was more Julius, in the clutch, with spectacular drives and well-guarded 3’s.

Randle hit a 3 with a hand in his face to pull NY from down 100-99 to up 102-100 with 4:52 left. Then came down next time with score tied 102, and hit another 3 with hand in his face to give NY the 105-102 lead with 4:20 left.

3. Brunson’s Shot Off

Jalen Brunson‘s shot was off all night — he’d penetrate the lane and get to his spot — put up his soft jumper, but it would roll in and out. All night. Until the 4th quarter when he came up with a nifty drive to give the Knicks the final lead at 111-109.

Brunson would finish 6-20 from the floor for 13 points.

4. Knick Finishers: Brunson, Hart, Quick, Mitch, Randle

Like Brunson, RJ Barrett started off 1-5 from the floor. But Barrett made his shots efficiently in the 2nd half, and made several big buckets in the 4th quarter — including two drives where he was fouled and made the free throws — to finish with 14 pts on 5-10 shooting (1-2 from 3, 3-4 in free throws).

But Barrett did have two turnovers in the 4th and in the final minutes of a close game, Thibs went with a team of Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart, Immanuel Quickley, Mitchell Robinson, and Randle — no Barrett.

Quickley’s defense was immaculate — at one point in the 4th he found himself against 6’10 Kyle Kuzma, and denied Kuzma the dribble on the right side, forcing a bad shot. Hart was all over the floor grabbing key rebounds as usual.

And Mitchell Robinson was Mitchell Robinson.

5. Washington Has Scorers

The Knicks did a good job defensively on Kyle Kuzma, who is a walking bucket — very difficult to defend as a very mobile 6’10 big who gets into the lane and hits the 3. He has torn the Knicks up in the past but not this night — a relatively pedestrian 23 points and 3-12 from 3.

The Knicks also contained Bradley Beal — who hit some big buckets in the 4th but overall was limited to 16 points on 6-14 shooting. Quentin Grimes (21 minutes) defended Beal as did Barrett, Hart, and Quickley at times.

NY was hurt by Monte Morris, the Wizard starting point guard — who scored 12 points on 5-8 shooting, and Delon Wright, the 6’5 shooting guard who came off the bench to go 5-7 from 3 for 15 points.

The Boxscore





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