Austin Rivers exploded for 14-straight points in the fourth quarter, and Julius Randle had yet another monster game as the New York Knicks recovered from a lackluster first half to overcome the Utah Jazz (4-4) 112-100. The win is the fourth in a row for the Knicks (5-3), and fifth out of their six after an 0-2 start.
A video circulating on Instagram Wednesday showed Rivers explaining to his girlfriend Audreyana Michelle that he was headed to the Knicks practice facility to put some shooting practice in. Much to the dismay of Michelle who was hoping Rivers would spend the day with him after a four game road trip, the extra work evidently paid off. Austin poured in 23 points on nine of 14 shooting, including 14 points in a row in the final stanza. He was 5-for-7 from three-point range, knocking down four consecutively in the fourth.
“I love this stage,’’ Rivers said. “I know every player says that when they come here, but I really do. I thrive on it. You have to be OK with missing a shot, making the wrong play. If you have the ball in your hands at the end of the game, you can’t worry about the makes and misses. You have to trust yourself and live with the outcome.”
Rivers’ heroics didn’t come as a surprise to Knicks coach Tom Thibdodeau who has known him since he was a young boy.
“I’ll tell you one thing,’’ Thibodeau said, “he’s never lacked confidence.”
Randle continued his torrid start to the season. Despite a sluggish start, Randle recorded 30 points, 16 rebounds, and seven assists while playing 39 minutes.
“It’s a lot of fun, honestly,’’ Randle said. “It’s unfortunate we can’t have fans in here to experience this team. It’s amazing the growth of this team. The fans will be here soon. We all signed up for a rocking Garden.’’
New York started well, jumping out to a 13-4 lead. However, a 14-4 spurt by the Jazz put them in front 18-17. Utah led 27-20 after a quarter, and the margin ballooned to as much as 18 in the second. The Knicks whittled away at the deficit before the half to trail 56-44 heading to the locker room.
The Knicks emerged for the second half looking like a different team. New York stepped up their intensity on defense and protected the ball better, committing no turnovers in the third. Utah miscues fueled the Knicks transition game as they grabbed a 78-75 lead heading to the fourth, setting the stage for a Rivers’ heroics.
The Jazz were able to get within a point a few diffrent times in the final quarter, but the Knicks denied them the chance to take back the lead. New York used a 34-25 fourth quarter to pull away for the win.
Even after a less than stellar first half, Rivers felt the no quit attitude of his team would bring them an opportunity to win the game.
“There was no panic,’’ Rivers said. “We just talked about hunting them down and everybody started having fun.’’
Elfrid Payton contributed again and found his way into the paint with ease, scoring 22 points and dishing out eight assists. Mitchell Robinson was able to stay out of foul trouble and logged an incredible 41 minutes. Robinson finished with nine points and 13 boards.
Reggie Bullock, who was questionable with a sore knee before the game, chipped in 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
The Knicks, who are still shorthanded due to multiple injuries, played a very tight rotation. Thibodeau used only eight players in the game, with rookie guard Immanuel Quickley playing only six minutes in the second quarter.
“It tells you the importance of being in great shape is. To win games late, you have to be in great shape,” Thibodeau noted.
New York will look to extend their winning streak when they host Oklahoma on Saturday night.
(Photo: Wendell Cruz/via AP)