Julius Randle too much to handle as Knicks drop Lakers

It was too much Julius Randle and too much Knicks defense for the Lakers to handle. The Lakers (33-21) are statistically the No. 1 defense in the NBA — based on the all-important defensive

It was too much Julius Randle and too much Knicks defense for the Lakers to handle.

The Lakers (33-21) are statistically the No. 1 defense in the NBA — based on the all-important defensive efficiency number regarding points per 100 possessions. But Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks showed the Lakers Monday at the Garden that sometimes numbers can lie.

Yes, this is Lakers Lite but Randle racked up 34 points and the Knicks’ crushing defense stymied the gold-clad defending champions in a 111-96 victory. It was the Knicks’ third straight victory to boost their record to 28-27.

Randle punished his former team on a night RJ Barrett’s hot streak ended. Randle, who played four seasons for the Lakers and left when LeBron James arrived, shot 13 of 23. Randle said before the game he “always’’ gets up for the Lakers.

Barrett was scoreless in the first half and finished with just seven points, going 2 of 11.

Julius Randle scored 34 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the Knicks win over the Lakers on Monday.
Getty Images

The Lakers are still without injured Anthony Davis and James, who could be gone for another three weeks. But the Knicks notched 14 steals and centers Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson combined for five blocks.

There were plenty of Lakers fans on hand among the pandemic Garden crowd of 2,000 with their jerseys and noise. But the “M-V-P’’ chants late in the fourth quarter were for Randle — not James, out with a severe hamstring strain.

Last Friday, No. 1 overall pick Anthony Edwards named the Knicks the toughest defense he’s faced this season — better than the Lakers.

It’s a sentiment that’s growing. Before the game, Thibodeau said their defensive image has earned the league’s respect.

“In general, it’s an important step for our team to take, to start with our defense,’’ Thibodeau said before the game. “And we wanted that to be a big part of our foundation. And hopefully that’s something that you can count on each and every night is your defense, your rebounding, keeping your turnovers down.’’

Randle, the former Lakers lottery pick, hit his first four shots and scored 19 points in the first half. He was 7 of 11 from the field as the Knicks led 55-52 at halftime.

The already battered Lakers were playing with ailing point guard Denis Schroder, who will be a free agent this summer. Despite a pelvis injury, a hobbled Schroder racked up 16 points in the half with his dribble penetration and finished with 21 points. The Knicks will likely have interest in Schroder this summer.

Barrett was scoreless in the first half, going 0-for-6, 0-for-2 from 3-point range. Only Randle made a 3-point shot in the first half yet their defense was good enough to seize the lead.

The Knicks also got productive play from point guard Elfrid Payton, who got hot late in the half with his penetration floaters and finished with 20 points to make up for Barrett’s no-show.

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Marc Berman

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