Mike Breen said it best: “(Julius) Randle shoots better with a defender on him.” Indeed he does, as he matched his career high Friday night with 46 points. Breen referred to the Three-Point Contest, where Randle came in second to last. Unfortunately, Randle’s game doesn’t translate to the All-Star festivities. His 16-29 from the field led the way for the Knicks to overpower the Washington Wizards and win their fourth game in a row during the Josh Hart Era, 115-109.
He was dominant and clutch, hitting two big free throws with almost a minute left in the game. Randle was also crucial in defending Kristaps Porziņģis, cutting off his air space in the pick-and-pop, limiting him to four points in the last three quarters. As Randle mentioned in the post-game interview with Breen, it’s all about his mental space. He has turned a corner in how he handles the ups and the downs, and it's shown on the court and in his leadership.
Knicks fans have become so accustomed to waiting till the fourth quarter for the team to mount a comeback. Since acquiring Hart, they have been able to course-correct their offensive and defensive miscues earlier. In this game, they came back from 19 points down to take the lead in the third quarter. A lot of this came from Randle and Barrett not settling for three-pointers and instead attacking the basket.
Randle especially was poised and precise attacking the rim. He showed a complete array of post moves, floaters, and mid-range gold. Barrett finished with 15 points on 50% shooting, but most of his efficiency came in the second half, where he took advantage of excellent screens from Obi Toppin and Isiah Hartenstein.
Kudos to Tom Thibodeau for finally pinning down the minutes' distribution, allowing the game to dictate who finishes while allowing the bench guys who propel the comeback to finish their runs. The combined rebounding prowess of Hartenstein (10) and Robinson (12) bullied the Wizards' frontcourt. I am still in the “Fire Thibs” camp, but only a miserable asshole says shit like that when the coach is evolving to a degree and managing his players and rotations toward wins.
My favorite sequence of the game was Randle, with a chance to set a new career-high, instead found Robinson under the basket for an easy layup that secured the win. That is a version of Randle Knicks fans have NEVER seen. certainly not last season, and not even during the MIP season.
Special shoutout to Immanuel Quickley, who played excellent defense all game, especially in crunch time, rotating seamlessly when the Wizards moved the ball around off screens to find open threes. Quickley was also in his bag, scoring 16 on the evening. No bench player has a greater impact on momentum than Quickley — when his perimeter shot is on, it can turn the tide of a game because of his ability to his in stride, off-balance, catch-and-shoot, and off-the-dribble.
We have the Pelicans next, who are trying to maintain their place in a reloaded Western Conference and will present a rematch of Jose Alvarado and Quentin Grimes, which was the highlight of the Rising Stars Game. Let’s go, Knicks!
- Jalen Brunson started the game off 1-6, but. We all know he’s a crunch time kind of guy. NBA.com moved him into second place on their clutch leaderboard, only behind De’Aaron Fox. Brunson’s stats in crunch time this season are 4.2 ppg, 50 FG%, 40 3P%.
- Why, for 20 years, has a random role player always caught fire against us? Delon Wright had a season-high 15 points tonight, hitting all five of his threes.
- MSG has to be the only channel peddling Nickleback during bumpers before commercial breaks.
- It’s so lovely to have Mitchell Robinson back. It usually takes him a few games to get back into game shape, but any talk of the team bringing back Porziņģis can’t seriously want him replacing what Robinson brings to the starting line-up.
- Julius Randle showed out this game with a 25-point first half, outplaying Porziņģis, who had all of his 19 points in the first quarter and didn't score again until 2:28 left in the fourth quarter. LMAO.
- Was Rui Hachimura really the cause of the Wizards’ issues? Since trading him on Jan. 23, they have gone 8-4. There weren’t any murmurs of Hachimura being an issue in the locker room, but damn, has the team played better since shipping him to LA.
- When engaged and activated, RJ Barrett can be one of the best facilitators on this team. He has a knack for finding open teammates, especially Robinson, making the center's return much welcome for him and Barrett. He had three assists tonight but many more in hockey assists.
- The Play-In Tournament will be really fun this season, all four teams (Heat, Hawks, Raptors, Wizards) fighting for spots have star power and depth.
- Quentin Grimes's on-ball defense was excellent against Bradley Beal tonight.
- My theory of William “Worldwide Wes” Wesley hanging out in the opposing team’s tunnels seems to be true. Perhaps Leon Rose told him no more floor seats after how last year’s front-row view in Utah during the playoffs affected the Donovan Mitchell negotiations.
- Please inject Josh Hart, calling himself a “dawg,” into my veins. The Knicks marketing team is milking it, and I’m here for it. There was a moment when Thibs called a timeout in the first half, and as the camera cut to a commercial break, you could see Hart on the bench chastising his teammate's defensive effort—more of this shit.
- Both the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets lost, which is good. Hell, the Cleveland Cavaliers also lost, which leaves the Knicks two games in the loss column away from fourth place in the East.
Our hero Julius said it best himself: “My mental is everything for me.”
Julius Randle on what he is most proud of this season :— Big Knick Energy (@BigKnickEnergy_) February 25, 2023
“Just my mental man…Honestly, my mental is everything for me. You know…I keep that right I’m a better son, husband, father, teammate.” pic.twitter.com/glIWxsba4T
Stay centered and keep kicking ass, big guy!