Credit to Julius Randle. Following a disappointing loss to Cleveland at home, Randle put the onus on himself to be more of a leader for the Knicks—to, as he said, “take accountability, I have to be better as a leader, as a leader of the team … whatever I gotta do.”
And he did that against a shorthanded Philadelphia team on Monday, posting 31 points and 12 rebounds, on 12-for-25 shooting, including 5-for-10 from the 3-point line in a victory.
He even got to get in a jab at Sixers fan, to boot. With 1:20 to play in the fourth quarter, someone in the home crowd saw fit to throw a small red ball onto the floor as Kemba Walker dribbled, milking the clock with a nine-point lead.
Randle was asked about it. “All I saw was, I think Kemba had the ball and they threw one of those little red balls on the court,” he said. “So, you know how Philly is, man. Their fans are passionate so they was probably p***d.”
Randle Dominated Fourth Quarter vs. Sixers
The probably should not have been. Playing without star center Joel Embiid, star forward Tobias Harris (both in COVID-19 protocols), not to mention holdout guard Ben Simmons, the Sixers did give the Knicks a game effort, cutting a 19-point lead down to one point in the fourth quarter, before New York was able to turn away the Philly rally.
That was largely because of Randle, who scored 10 points and shot 4-for-5 from the field in the fourth quarter, while the rest of the team was just 8-for-21 (38.1%).
“He was a monster all the way around,” coach Tom Thibodeau in his postgame media session. “The way the game started, the energy he provided. The way Julius closed the game was one big shot after the next. He did it in a variety of ways. When he plays like that it makes us a different team.’’
Randle, Barrett Have Celebration Miscue
But though he might have gotten Sixers fans a little “ticked,” the home court did exact a bit of a penalty on Randle, too.
With a little more than a minute to play, Randle got a rebound and made a follow-up lay-in after a miss by Walker, a hoop that gave New York an 11-point lead. That pretty much sealed the win.
Problem is, when Randle turned to the crowd and began to flex in celebration, he slipped a bit. That happened to be when teammate R.J. Barrett came streaming over to celebrate with Randle. It did not go well.
“Man, bro, like it was crazy, bro it hurt,” Randle said. “I was celebrating and I think I slipped, and R.J. went to chest-bump me and took my legs out, and it was a wrap. It was a wrap. Yeah man, it hurt. I’ll probably be a little hurt tomorrow, but I’ll be all right. You gotta react fast in those situations. I was happy we won. If we was losing, it probably would have took me a while to get up.”
Randle can take comfort in knowing Sixers fans did not likely see the play—most were already heading for the exits.