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There’s something about his home state of Texas that brings out the very best in Julius Randle.
After ransacking Dallas for 44 points last month, Randle kicked off May with a 31-points-in-30-minutes punishing of Houston as the Knicks began their six-game Western trip with a 122-97 whitewashing of the awful Rockets.
The victory assured the Knicks (36-28) of a .500 record. They haven’t posted record of .500 or better since 2012-13. The Knicks also hadn’t won in Houston since 2015-16, but this is a sorry Rockets edition as the club fell to 16-49, 5-35 in their last 40, and are missing starting point guard John Wall.
Randle made 13 of 22 shots — 4 of 9 from 3-point land. RJ Barrett scored 21 points and Derrick Rose added 24 off the bench.
The only bad news is starting center Nerlens Noel suffered an ankle sprain, according to the Knicks, after he bumped knees with Christian Wood and left the game in the third quarter. Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau got the benefit of resting his starters in the fourth quarter as the Knicks built a 30-point lead with a game in Memphis on tap Monday.
The NBA will announce its Coach of the Month for April and Thibodeau has a strong chance after an 11-4 month. And now May is off to a great start too.
Rockets rookie head coach Stephen Silas refused to double-team Randle as most teams have done. Randle had a big start and then racked up 15 points in the third quarter, smiling and yapping as he trundled back on defense after his makes. He’s scored 30-plus points in eight of his last 10 games.
The Knicks led 59-44 at halftime as they seized control off a 16-1 run after falling behind by five points early in the contest.
Randle was back to his best in his matchup against the Rockets’ highly touted rookie, Jae’Sean, the undersized power forward, scoring 16 points in the first half, draining 7 of 11 baskets. He got hot early with two early 3-pointers. He also had four assists in the half.
The Knicks moved the ball terrifically — with 10 assists in the first quarter. Barrett continued his hot hand from the 3-point line, hitting 2 of 5. The Knicks were 8 of 20 from 3-point range in the first half.
Rose came off the bench and drilled the Rockets for 13 points in 17 minutes in the half, including two points off a gritty offensive rebound.
Silas said before the game the Knicks had the toughness of the early 1990s Knicks when he was a team ballboy. His father, Paul, was an assistant coach for Stu Jackson and Pat Riley and Silas reminisced about cleaning up the sweat of players like Patrick Ewing, Xavier McDaniel and Mark Jackson.
Silas said this group of Knicks had the same sweat and grit as those clubs.
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