New York snapped a three-game winning streak by the Lake Show while finally breaking out of their own three-game skid, winning for the first time since defeating the Celtics in double-OT back on Mar. 5 at MSG.
The Lakers couldn’t get to an even record, falling instead to the 11th seed in the Western Conference with a .485 winning percentage and a 33-35 record tied with those of the no. 9 Jazz, no. 10 Thunder, and no. 12 Pelicans.
“We did enough to win, and the tone was set at the beginning by Julius,” coach Tom Thibodeau said after the victory.
Julius Randle started the game with all the force he left on the bench 24 hours earlier when he got sent to the pine after elbowing Mason Plumlee and getting a tech. The All-Star nailed 25 of his game-high 33 points in the first half alone (18 in the first quarter) keeping the Knicks afloat halfway through the game. He only scored seven pops in the second half, but New York didn’t really need more than that with RJ Barrett flying to reach 30 himself on the day.
“We have a very young team, so when you have a young team, and Julius is just going into his prime, the only way they’re going to get better is by working. If they’re not working, they’re not going to get better.”
A veteran on the Lakers’ gameday squad tied Randle’s 33-point mark on Sunday, though it was not the one you might be thinking about.
Anthony Davis was limited to a measly 17 points while D’Angelo Russell, a former Brooklynite, was the one netting the most baskets for the Lakers. He dished out eight dimes and pulled down five rebounds.
The Knicks had some D’Lo kryptonite in Immanuel Quickley as the lading 6MOY candidate dumped 15 points on LAL to go with three assists, two rebounds, and one theft.
Isaiah Hartenstein was the only Knickerbocker getting minutes but no points, although his 11-rebound contribution and stiff defense was all New York needed to prevent Davis (8-of-18 from the floor) from sinking them.
“Shooting the ball the way I did [on Saturday], I wanted to be a little bit more in attack mode and aggressive going to the basket,” Randle said.
Randle hit 11-of-24 shots on Sunday compared to Saturday’s 5-of-24 outing. He also nailed 8-of-11 freebies yesterday. The Brow shot 44.4% from the floor and 20% from the charity stripe. LeBron James didn’t get a shot—at playing, that is, sitting this one out while nursing his sore right foot.
“Games like that happen,” continued Randle. “I work on my craft. I’m not gonna second-guess myself just because I had a bad game. Come back next game, be better,” he finished.
The Lakers had a chance to move up to a .500 record for the first time since last season, but they are now instead on the outside looking in when it comes to making it to the play-in tourney.
Jalen Brunson missed another game. He arrived at the Crypto in a walking boot, and according to ESPN, he is “unlikely” to play Tuesday in Portland with that being the last game of the ongoing West Coast trip of the Knicks. The good news? New York is off from that day until Saturday (vs. Denver at MSG), giving Brunson nine days of well-earned rest.
“[Brunson] is our floor general,” said Barrett after the victory over the Lakers. “We definitely miss having him on the floor, but while he’s out, we’ve got to figure it out. We’ve got to figure out how to get these wins.”
Thibodeau didn’t provide any timetable for Brunson’s return. According to Thibs, Brunson will “continue to do his treatments,” and “when he’s ready to go, he’s ready to go.”
“It’s not Jalen by himself. It’s Jalen with the medical staff. So he’s got a say in it, but the medical guys have to clear him. There are a number of people involved in a decision. We’re not going to put him in harm’s way,” added the coach.
Thibodeau summed it all up nicely: “if [Brunson] gets cleared and he feels good, he’ll play. If he needs more time, he’ll get more time.” He also said that the approach New York is following with JB “is not just [for Jalen, but for] all of our players.”
According to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, Randle’s 18 first-quarter points, “...gave him 644 points in first quarters this season, setting the record for most in franchise history since play-by-play was tracked in 1997-98—Carmelo Anthony set the previous record in 2013-14.“
IQ had a horrid outing against Sacramento to kick off the trip, but he bounced back on Saturday and put on another solid performance against the Lakers, this one ending in victory for the Knicks.
“Nothing changed, honestly,” said Quickley. “Sometimes you make shots, sometimes you miss shots. But you can always control your energy level, competitiveness, and your spirit. So nothing changed.”
Speaking about IQ and the rest of the second unit, Thibs said that “the bench was phenomenal“. According to the coach, “Deuce gave us great minutes, Obi gave us great minutes, Isaiah gave us great minutes,” and ”you can’t ask for more than that.”
Josh Hart got a 32-minute run in which he dropped eight points to go with eight rebounds, adding four dimes to that against just three turnovers. “Josh is Josh,” said Thibodeau.
“Every big play in the fourth, loose-ball, rebounds, hit a big three when the game was starting to go the other way... But that’s who [Hart] is.”
Final game out West coming on Tuesday in the PDX.
If you’re feeling down for whatever reason, here’s Thibs with some life advice for you, all of it shared after beating the Lakers on the road on a random Sunday in the middle of March.
“Hey, look, we’re all human. Anyone can have a bad day. If you have a bad day, the next day, you got to bounce back and have a great day.
“You have to be mentally tough to get through things. Sometimes, it’s not easy. Sometimes, things aren’t going your way. So how do you make them go your way?” he questioned.
“The more you invest in something, the harder it is to surrender. And the more you fight and get through things... I think being mentally tough through adversity is probably the most important thing there is.”
There’s that for you, for free, courtesy of a candid man that goes by the name of Thomas Joseph Thibs.
Next tip-off at 10 EST. Portland. Tuesday. Don’t miss it.