The Knicks struggled with blowing leads during the three-game losing streak they lugged into Detroit on Saturday night. This time, however, they were able to quickly build such insurmountable lead
The Knicks struggled with blowing leads during the three-game losing streak they lugged into Detroit on Saturday night.
This time, however, they were able to quickly build such insurmountable lead that coach Tom Thibodeau even let Julius Randle rest for the entire fourth quarter.
Randle had come out on fire and delivered a blistering first quarter to spark the Knicks to a 125-81 win over the Pistons at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
Randle, who had struggled Friday in a home loss to the Mavericks, finished with 29 points and Reggie Bullock added 22. The two combined to shoot 17-for-28 and 11-for-19 from 3-point range, much of it coming as the Knicks opened up a 30-point first-half lead. RJ Barrett, who also had an off night Friday, chipped in 14 points and Elfrid Payton had 11 points and nine assists.
The Knicks (25-25) shot 53.8 percent (and 47.4 percent from deep) to snap a three-game losing streak and get back to .500 again. They have a showdown against the Nets awaiting Monday after Sunday’s well-earned day off.
Randle was the face of the Knicks’ struggles in the first half of the back-to-back, scoring just 14 points on 5-for-20 shooting (including 1-for-7 from deep) Friday in an uncharacteristic night for the All-Star. He wasn’t alone, as the Knicks shot just 36 percent from the field against the Mavericks, their third-worst mark of the season, and blew a double-digit lead for a second straight game.
But Randle immediately made sure Saturday would have a much different finish.
On the Knicks’ first two possessions, Randle drained a corner 3-pointer and then drilled another from the other corner. In two possessions, he had made more 3-pointers than he had all of Friday night. And he was only just beginning.
Early on it was the Randle and Bullock show. The two combined to score 28 of the Knicks’ first 30 points, including a pair of treys apiece during a 14-0 run in the opening 3 ¹/₂ minutes. Randle needed just 6:53 to surpass his scoring total from Friday night. He finished the first quarter with 20 points while Bullock chipped in 14. The two combined to shoot 8-for-12 from beyond the arc in the opening 12 minutes.
The result: The Knicks scored a season-high 41 points in the first quarter as they took a 41-15 lead into the second.
The lead grew as large as 30 points in the first half, when a Derrick Rose jumper put the Knicks up 51-21 early in the second quarter. The Pistons finally began to fight back from there, going on a 13-3 run to cut the Knicks’ lead to 60-41 by halftime.
Perhaps most importantly, the Knicks came out in the third quarter and showed few signs of letting up. After blowing a nine-point lead against the Heat on Monday, an 18-point lead against the Timberwolves on Wednesday and a 13-point lead against the Mavericks on Friday, the Knicks kept their foot on the gas pedal in the second half. The Pistons got within 17 points in the third quarter before the Knicks pushed their lead back to 27 at 88-61 heading to the fourth.
Before the game, Thibodeau had pointed to a lack of ball movement hurting the Knicks as much as key players not shooting well in Friday’s 99-86 loss to the Mavericks. Saturday, they got both.
“The big thing is when our main guys don’t have a good night going, we still have to do all the other things to lift each other up — from screening to moving the ball to finishing our spacing and that sort of thing,” Thibodeau said. “But it’s something we’re capable of, we understand that. It requires energy and effort. It’s a long season and you have to get through things.”
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Greg Joyce