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Scenes from a Barclays blowout, courtesy of Julius Randle

Knicks 121, Nets 102: Randle dominates the Nets’ frontcourt, scores 26 points.

NBA: New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Before tonight, the Brooklyn Nets (13-14) had beaten the New York Knicks (16-11) six straight times at the Barclays Center, and much had been made about a supposed cross-town rivalry. In the first of four meetings between the clubs this season, New York dispelled all that poppycock. Wrapping up a five-game, Western Conference-heavy road trip, the Knicks took care of business with room to spare. Final score, 121-102.

Much was made, too, about Isaiah Hartentstein joining the starting line-up. With Jericho Sims out for 1-2 weeks with a sprained ankle, Hartenstein, who started eight of his 82 regular season games last season, got first-five honors tonight and finished with 10 rebounds.

But perhaps not enough has been made of Julius Randle’s recent play. He’s been a stud for quite a few games now, and Brooklyn could do little more than flail at a rampaging Julius as he collected a tidy 26 points, seven boards, four assists, and a team-high +27 rating. Roll the tape.

First Half

In the first frame, beautiful ball movement by the Knicks and clunkin’ chucks from their Brooklyn brethren spelled a fourteen-point New York lead. Julius Randle continued to play focused, aggressive basketball and devoured the Nets’ frontcourt, scoring 12 first-quarter points.

Meanwhile, Villanova’s own Mikal Bridges missed his first seven shots but connected an elbow squarely with Isaiah Hartenstein’s chops, opening a wound that sent the big man to the dressing room for treatment. Hence, Taj Gibson got some shine sooner than expected, and he scored his first bucket as a Knick this season early in the second quarter.

The Nets hit all four of their three-pointers to start the second frame to chip at their deficit. By percentage, Brooklyn is the league’s second-best three-point shooting team, so it was only a matter of time before they caught up. Led by Cameron Johnson and Royce O’Neale, they were down by only five points midway through Q2.

Did you want a small ball line-up? You got it! At the 6:50 mark of the second quarter, and with Hartenstein away in the bowels of Barclays, Thibs was forced to play Julius at the five and Josh Hart at the four. As if summoned by the shrieks of Thibodeau’s soul, Isaiah came bounding back into the arena and onto the floor one minute later. Phew! Paint protection restored!

Thanks to Randle’s bully ball, Donte DiVincenzo’s contribution on both ends (12 points, five boards, two dimes, one steal), and four Knicks grabbing five or more rebounds apiece, New York rode a 60-51 lead into intermission.

New York had outshot the Nets from the field, 43% to 36%, yet Brooklyn had the edge from deep, 46% to 29%. The Knicks had been the more physical team and shot 15 free throws (making 13) to Brooklyn’s seven. New York had won the points in the paint (26-14), fast-breakers (14-6), and the turnovers stat (committing five to Brooklyn’s eight).

Your halftime shot-chart:

Second Half

One never knows what to expect of the third-quarter Knicks. Often, their performance after halftime seems to be the opposite of whatever they did in the second quarter. Tonight, however, they emerged from the locker room playing with pace and sticky defense. They scored the first 11 points of the third period and jumped ahead by 20.

With the confidence of a lead, New York’s defense softened up, and the Nets’ twin-Cam engine, Johnson and Thomas, found the net to reduce the differential. Usually a talented scorer, Bridges made only one of his first 14 shots, but his first three-pointer of the game cut the Knicks’ lead to 10 with under four minutes left in Q3. For every swing the Nets took, though, Julius and Jalen responded with a smack. After three frames, New York enjoyed a 90-77 lead.

Every Knick who played scored tonight, although Quentin Grimes didn’t get a bucket until the fourth period. Immanuel Quickley made the most of his limited time, as usual, scoring 19 points in 24 minutes. Thanks to those two guys, the Knicks’ lead jumped to 22-points early in the fourth, and this game ended long before the buzzer buzzed. DaQuan Jeffries, Ryan Arcidiacono, and Miles McBride all came on to sweep up the final minutes.

Give it up for Taj Gibson. The 38-year-old iron man had kept himself in shape by running through New York when not on a roster, and the training paid off. He recorded 13 quality minutes tonight. And hat’s off to Josh Hart, who grabbed a season-high 13 rebounds.

Finally, DiVincenzo had recorded a career-high of 25 points in November. He looked ready to top that tonight after dropping 11 in the third quarter, but Thibs rested him early as the score ran up. DiVo finished with a very respectable 23 points, providing yet more evidence that moving him to the starting unit was the right choice.

Your Starters

  • Jalen Brunson: 16 points, eight assists, seven boards, one steal, 6-of-15 FG, 1-of-3 3P, 32 minutes. +18
  • Donte DiVincenzo: 23 points, eight rebounds, three steals, one assist, 9-of-15 FG, 5-of-10 3P, 23 minutes. +13.
  • R.J. Barrett: 14 points, five boards, two assists, one steal, 5-of-11 FG, 0-of-1 3P, 27 minutes. +13.
  • Julius Randle: 26 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one turnover, 9-of-20 FG, 0-of-4 3P, 8-of-9 FT, 34 minutes. +27.
  • Isaiah Hartenstein: 10 boards, three assists, two points, two blocks, 30 minutes. +21.

Up Next

A Saturday matinee with Milwaukee at MSG is on the way. Great win tonight, Knickerbockers. Welcome home.

Box Score