Coming off of a controversial and disappointing loss to Philadephia two nights earlier, it would be interesting to see what mindset the New York Knicks would bring to their next game. It didn’t take long for the Washington Wizards to learn that Tom Thibodeau had his team laser focused and with a chip on their shoulders.
Sparked by the sharp shooting of Julius Randle, the Knicks (21-21) fashioned a big halftime lead and went on to defeat Washington 131-113. New York was coming off of four straight games that came down to the final possession. They had lost three of them. Washington (15-27) has fell in eight of their last nine.
“The statement [he made] was the win was the most important thing,’’ Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He’s done that a number of times for us. To bounce back after a tough loss, and the way we lost the game, that’s what leaders do.’’
“No, I didn’t need motivation,’’ Randle added. “My motivation is just to win games and do my part for this team. So I didn’t need any extra motivation.’’
The game against the 76ers seemed like it was from the 1990’s with the low-scoring, grind it out style of play by both teams. Against the Wizards however the Knicks came out blistering hot. New York shot 58% from the field in the opening quarter. They were 5-for-8 from behind the arc for for 63% as they jumped out to a 39-31 lead.
The offensive efficiency continued in the second. The Knicks opened the quarter on a 7-2 run. A three-pointer by Immanuel Quickley made it 46-43 New York. Quickley’s stop and pop bomb made the Knicks 6-for-10 from downtown. Washington cut the lead to nine, but an RJ Barrett three gave the Knicks a 56-41 advantage.
New York led by 19 points on several occasions in the quarter. An offensive rebound and slam by Mitchell Robinson in the final seconds gave the Knicks their biggest lead of the half at 69-49. Randle recorded 21 first half points for New York. The Knicks ended the first 24 minutes shooting 54% from the field and 53% from three-point range.
The onslaught by the Knicks continued to begin the third. First, Randle dropped his fourth trey of the night. Next, a Nerlens Noel block triggered a transition layup by Barrett. Barrett was fouled on the shot and went to the line to complete the traditional three-point play ballooning the lead to 26. Then, Randle exploded. Randle nailed a trio of 3-pointers in a row. Chants of “MVP” rained down from The Garden Rafters. The Knicks led by as much as 31 in the quarter and held a 108-80 lead heading to the fourth.
“You’re right, I did have a heat check,’’ Randle said. “I was going to pull from half [court] at one point. That’s how good I was feeling. So yeah, I had it rolling.’’
Washington attempted a comeback in the final stanza. And they did it without stars Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook. Led by the motivated play of Deni Avdija, the Wizards sliced the lead to 17 with five minutes to play. A three-pointer by Alec Burks pushed the lead back up to 20 for the Knicks and they closed it out from there.
Robinson’s performance was a welcome sign for the Knicks. In just his second game back after missing 15 games with an injury Robinson scored 16 points, pulled down 12 boards and blocked three shots for the Knicks. Th most impressive part was the high level of Robinson’s motor. The New York big man played like a man on a mission.
With the game out of hand Randle was quieter in the fourth quarters. He still finished with 37 points. He was 7-for-10 from long range. Barrett added 21. Burks chipped in 20 for his third consecutive 20 plus game.
Beal led Washington with 22 points. Westbrook and Avdjia contributed 14 points each.
New York will host the Wizards again on Thursday night. The NBA tradeline comes that afternoon so it will be interesting what the teams look like by then.
(Photo: Vincent Carchietta/AP)
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