Randle’s 35 leads Knicks over Rockets 108-88 to snap skid

Dec 31, 2022, 4:32 AM | Updated: 7:14 pm

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) dunks against the Houston Rockets during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

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HOUSTON (AP) — Julius Randle scored 35 points and Immanuel Quickley added 27 as the New York Knicks snapped a five-game skid with a 108-88 win over the Houston Rockets on Saturday night.

“It’s the nature of the league,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “You win eight in a row and then you have some tough losses … that’s part of it. How do you respond to it? We took a haymaker … and we bounced back.”

The Rockets led for most of the first half, but the Knicks went on top just before the break and lead by double-digits for most of the second half.

Houston cut the lead to eight points on a basket by Tari Eason with about nine minutes to go before the Knicks scored the next seven points, capped by a 3 from Evan Fournier that made it 91-76.

The Rockets scored the next four points, but New York answered with an 8-0 run, with 3s from Quickley and Quentin Grimes, to extend the lead to 99-80 with about four minutes to go.

Thibodeau was asked how his team bounced back after falling behind early.

“I thought our ball pressure was a lot better which led to turnovers that got us in the open floor,” he said. “Guys played very hard and very unselfishly.”

Kevin Porter Jr. had 23 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for the Rockets, who have dropped three in a row. Houston opened the game strong, scoring 35 points in the first quarter, but had a terrible second, managing just 14 points to allow the Knicks to close the gap.

The Rockets had 24 turnovers and made just 6 of 34 3-pointers after hitting 8 of their first 12.

“It’s hard to win with (24) turnovers as a team,” Porter said.

Houston veteran Eric Gordon was asked if he’s seen improvement from the team since the beginning of the season.

“There’s no improvement,” he said.

Randle had 12 rebounds and six assists and Quickley had seven assists and five rebounds before they both sat down for good with about two minutes left.

Quickley has been great filling in for injured star Jalen Brunson. He had a career-high 15 assists in his first start for Brunson and scored a career-best 36 points in his second start Thursday before turning in another strong performance Saturday.

“It wasn’t what he did for himself, but what he did for our team,” Thibodeau said. “That was really valuable for us.”

A 7-1 run by the Knicks extended the lead to 76-62 late in the third quarter. Porter and Jalen Green then made consecutive 3-pointers to start an 8-1 run that got Houston within 7. But New York scored the last five points of the third, with a 3 from Grimes, to take an 82-70 lead into the fourth.

RANDLE’S MONTH

Randle’s performance Saturday capped a fabulous month in which he had seven games with at least 30 points.

“He’s just had a monster month,” Thibodeau said. “We’re asking him to do a lot, too. He’s scoring, he’s passing, he’s rebounding.”

TIP-INS

Knicks: Brunson missed his third straight game with a hip injury. … RJ Barrett missed a second straight game with a lacerated right index finger. …Grimes had 19 points. … Mitchell Robinson had 12 rebounds.

Rockets: Alperen Sengun was a late scratch with lower back pain. … Green added 16 points. … Gordon had 12. … Rookie Jabari Smith Jr. scored 10. … Eason had nine points and 13 rebounds off the bench.

UP NEXT

Knicks: Host Phoenix on Monday night.

Rockets: Host the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night.

___

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Randle’s 35 leads Knicks over Rockets 108-88 to snap skid