Knicks forward Julius Randle had another big game in Saturday’s rematch against the Wizards, which resulted in an 2019-closing road win.

The New York Knicks (9-24) ended 2019 with a 107-100 win over the Washington Wizards (9-22). For New York, Julius Randle finished with 30 points, 16 rebounds, and six assists, while Washington’s Isaiah Thomas led the home team with 20 points, four rebounds, and four assists.

With both teams playing earlier in the week, the two squads were very familiar with each other, but with a twist. The Wizards announced about an hour before tip-off that All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal was out for the game with an injury. For the Knicks, it was a reprieve of facing a team without their best scorer. For Washington, it created a conundrum of figuring out how to score with their best player out. 

And outside of four turnovers in their first four possessions, the Knicks’ offense was humming. Julius Randle had a good start, bullying Washington’s third- and fourth-string bigs, while rookie swingman R.J. Barrett had a couple of good looks attacking the basket. However, the player who carried things, at least offensively, was Bobby Portis. The 24-year-old Portis had 15 points in the first half and carried New York against his former team.

Leading by 10 to end the first quarter, the Knicks looked like a team moving towards an easy win, but things weren’t that simple. Washington’s offense took advantage of New York’s defense, thanks to easy transition baskets via 21 turnovers. The trio of Thomas, Ish Smith (13 points), and Gary Payton II (15 points, six rebounds, and six steals) were able to keep D.C.’s offense afloat, even with Beal sidelined on Saturday.

The second half was a slog, with neither team scoring 50 total points between the third and fourth quarters. Jordan McRae (20 points, five rebounds) had some big threes to keep it close in the final minutes, but veteran forward—and rumored trade target—Marcus Morris knocked down some free throws, both to salvage a poor night and give the Knicks a win to close out 2019. 

Let’s go to the notes

  • Kevin Knox didn’t have a great game, with just six points and four rebounds, but he looks more comfortable. Offensively, the sophomore forward seems to know his strengths, e.g. shooting off the catch. On the defensive side of the ball, he seems more active and even making a few defensive plays a game now. It’s baby steps for Knox, but it would be nice to see this continue in 2020. 
  • Julius Randle had an excellent game. The 30-16-5 line doesn’t do justice to his overall performance—even on the defensive end. Randle did a good job of attacking Washington’s bigs; he was nice creating and finding others; and I thought he did a good job as a straight post defender. Tip of the cap to a player who has been heavily criticized.

  • Frank Ntilikina had a good game, even if he felt invisible at times. He was instrumental in a solid third-quarter run for New York, providing some excellent defense to slow down both Smith and Thomas. Offensively, he did a good job of moving the ball with Payton out. It worked well and, outside of a foul late in the first quarter to reward Washington three free throws, Ntilikina finished with a solid eight points, four rebounds, and five assists. 
  • Overall, a strong shooting performance from New York. After several shooting woes, to go 11-of-31 from three and 20-of-26 from the line, it was an overall solid performance from a team that dealt with poor shooting. I would like to see New York play with more shooting in their starting lineup, but again, baby steps. 

The Knicks host Carmelo Anthony and the Portland Trail Blazers on New Year’s Day at the Garden.


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