Julius Randle continued his strong start to the season on Wednesday night. His big performance helped the New York Knicks defeated the Utah Jazz, 112-100. The Knicks have now won five of their last six games.
Julius Randle Puts Up Big Stat Line
Randle led the way for the Knicks tonight, finishing with a big stat line of 30 points, 16 rebounds, and seven assists.
Although it is still early in the 2020-21 NBA season, Julius Randle’s production has been a revelation for New York
Randle got off to a shaky start, shooting 10 of the Knicks’ first 19 field goals, connecting on just three of them. Additionally, he picked up his second foul on a play away from the ball late in the first quarter. With Randle in early foul trouble it, looked like the Knicks would need to find production from players like RJ Barrett and Elfrid Payton to keep this game close.
However, Barrett struggled immensely, so Tom Thibodeau quickly went back to Randle with eight minutes left in the second quarter and the Knicks down 18. From there, it was business as usual for Julius.
Randle was undoubtedly the Knicks best player last year, and he clearly put in a ton of work over the offseason to get even better. The biggest improvement in his game has been his playmaking ability. Randle is averaging 7.4 assists so far, up from 3.1 last year, and he has been able to create quality looks for his teammates on a nightly basis- something his young teammates like RJ Barrett have benefitted from immensely.
Knicks’ Improved Backcourt Continues to Pay Dividends
One of the many reasons for the Knicks’ abysmal 21-45 campaign last season was poor guard play. However, eight games into this season, the Knicks have found themselves with a number of quality options in the backcourt. In fact, it’s going to be interesting to see what sort of rotation Thibodeau settles into as the season moves on, as there are multiple guards playing quality basketball right now.
Coming into tonight’s game, Immanuel Quickley was a big storyline. Quickley was a player that many fans expected to see get heavy minutes, after he came off the bench to spark the Knicks to a come-from-behind victory in their previous game against the Atlanta Hawks (Quickley had 15 points in the second half). However, Elfrid Payton and Austin Rivers played incredibly well tonight and Quickley was an afterthought, playing only six minutes.
While Payton put up another great performance, with 22 points and eight assists, the story of the night was the late game heroics from Rivers. He had 23 points on 9-14 shooting, including 14 points in the final four minutes of the game. Rivers will be an x-factor for this team moving forward, as he is one of the only bench players on this team that can come in and create instant offense. Rivers is also one of the only real three-point shooting threats on the team in general.
R.J. Barrett Comes Back to Earth
The only negative coming out of tonight’s game was the play of RJ Barrett, who finished with nine points on 4-14 shooting. This was the first game this season where Barrett was not on the court to close out the game, as Coach Thibs went with Payton, Rivers, Bullock, Randle and Mitchell Robinson during the final five minutes of the fourth quarter.
While Barrett was coming off two quality performances (26 points against Atlanta, 25 against the Pacers), he still has proven to be a streaky player and has a lot of room for improvement – particularly as a shooter. Barrett is shooting an abysmal 23.5% from three on 4.9 attempts per game this season. If he doesn’t improve in this area, getting into the lane for easy buckets will only get harder for him, as teams start to play off him more on the perimeter. With that being said, his play thus far has definitely been one of many bright spots for the Knicks, and he has plenty of time to continue improving considering he is still only 20 years old.
Looking Ahead for Knicks
The Knicks look to extend their winning streak to four games on Friday, January 8, at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
FINAL: Knicks 112, Jazz 100