HOUSTON (AP) Julius Randle scored 31 points in the three quarterfinals to lead the New York Knicks to a 122-97 victory over the Houston Rockets on Sunday night.
Randle, who had seven rebounds and six assists, scored 15 points in the third quarter to complete the lead and spent the fourth quarter on the bench with the game out of reach.
“We increased it in the second half,” said Randle. “ We had good plays, the defense tightened and we opened the game. ”
It was the 11th win in 12 games for the Knicks and the seventh loss in eight games for the Rockets, who have the NBA’s worst record at 16-49.
New York also beat Houston in this season’s first meeting on February 13 to win the Season Series for the first time since 2002-03. This is only the Knicks’ second victory in Houston in 16 trips, with the last scheduled for November 21, 2015.
Randle continued his recent stellar game by scoring at least 30 points for the fourth time in five games. It is the 13th time this season that he has finished with 30 points or more.
“He’s seen all types of defense throughout the season,” said New York coach Tom Thibodeau. “He got comfortable with the doubles team, he got to know the attacking zones. There is a great deal of versatility in his game that puts a lot of pressure on the defense. ”
The Rockets scored five straight points, punctuated by a Christian Wood dunk, to reduce the lead to 73-64 with about 5 minutes left in the third quarter.
But Randle made a lopsided layup seconds later before making 3 straight runs to extend New York’s lead to 81-64 with 4 minutes left in the quarter.
After his second 3 of this period, a small group of Knicks fans started singing: “ MVP, MVP ”.
Jae’Sean Tate finished the race with a layup for the Rockets, but New York scored the next seven points, with 3s from Reggie Bullock and Derrick Rose to make 88-66 with about 2 minutes left in the third.
The Knicks were 20 points ahead about a minute later when Randle regained the upper hand, scoring five quick points to push the lead to 93-68.
“The demoralizing feeling you get especially with a young team and the emotions that go with it, it happened again tonight,” said Houston coach Stephen Silas.
Wood had 19 points and eight rebounds for the Rockets who struggled at long range, making just 8 of 35 3 points.
New York rose 28 points in the fourth quarter before using a 7-0 run to reach 117-82 with about 5 1/2 minutes left, and all of the Knicks’ starters went to the bench soon after. .
Knicks: RJ Barrett had 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists. … Rookie Immanuel Quickley had 13 points off the bench. … New York had 18 of 35 3s.
Rockets: Kelly Olynyk had 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. … Bradley started after missing the last two games with a pain in his right leg and had seven points. … Danuel House Jr. missed his third straight game with pain in his right ankle. … DJ Augustin missed his 11th game in a row with a sprained left ankle. … Coach Stephen Silas has said Eric Gordon, absent since March 11 with a strained groin, is doing better and could return this season.
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Rose, who scored 24 goals on Sunday, is starting to feel again after missing eight games following a COVID-19 diagnosis in late February. But he still has work to do.
“I’m still trying to lose a few pounds,” he said. “ During COVID, I gained weight. I ate a little. I’m trying to do some extra conditioning. I would like to lose two or three more pounds. ”
Knicks: Play Memphis on Monday night in Game 2 of a six-game road trip.
Rockets: Host Philadelphia Wednesday night before setting off on a four-game road trip.
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