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Julius Randle's over his fine, to the tune of 37 points in Knicks' win over Wizards

Knicks forward Julius Randle runs up the court

Knicks forward Julius Randle runs up the court after making a three-point basket against the = Wizards during the second half of an NBA game on March 23. Credit: AP/Vincent Carchietta

Julius Randle had spent the morning talking about moving forward, choosing to put the late-game struggles and the frustration with the losses — and the officials — behind him.

While the opponent on this night, the Washington Wizards, was not the level of the Eastern Conference title contenders who had beaten the Knicks in the final seconds three times in a seven-day stretch, Randle clearly was relaxed again.

Early in the third quarter Tuesday night, Randle fired in a three-pointer, then another and then a third in a row. He then took the ball, dribbled like a point guard before firing up another. This one was an airball, but he’d already done his job — putting the Knicks up by more than 30 points as he finished with 37 to lead the Knicks to a 131-113 win over the Wizards at Madison Square Garden.

"I’m not surprised. I’m just confident because I put the work in," Randle said. "I know how hard I worked this summer on trying to improve as a shooter. Honestly, I’m not really surprised. Yeah, you’re right, I did have a heat check. I was going to pull from half at one point. That’s how good I was feeling. So yeah, I had it rolling."

If he was relaxed, he had lost little of his fire. Even with the Knicks building up a one-sided lead in the third quarter he was separated from Bradley Beal at one point by officials and then at the end of the period the Knicks rushed to get him away from the Washington bench.

The Knicks went up by as many as 31 in the third quarter, but saw the lead briefly go down to 17 and even before it got that low Randle was back in the game, along with RJ Barrett as the Knicks were not about to take their foot off the gas. Randle finished connecting on 7 of 10 from beyond the arc, finally done of the night with 1:53 remaining.

"The statement was the win was the most important thing," Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said of Randle. "He’s done that a number of times for us."

When Randle last talked, following Sunday night’s frustrating loss to Philadelphia, his interview lasted less than 30 seconds, but he was intent on getting his message out in that time no matter what it cost him.

"Blown call by the officials," a visibly angry Randle said that night. "Not enough contact for them to call the play. I don’t know who it was — Nerlens [Noel] — but clearly he had possession. After all the fouling and everything that was going on, for them to call that and decide the game is [expletive] ridiculous. They have to do a better job. It’s too many games like this."

Message delivered. And Tuesday afternoon the NBA predictably applied the fine, announcing a $15,000 penalty for, according to NBA Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Kiki VanDeWeghe, "directing inappropriate language toward a game official and public criticism of the officiating."

Randle was willing to pay the price after the Knicks suffered their third loss to an Eastern Conference contender in a week, all three coming with the chance for the Knicks to pull it out in the final minute. Sunday night, Randle was whistled for a foul, which was confirmed Monday in the NBA’s Last Two-Minute Report. But the late-game struggles had him frustrated.

"I’m just going to say no comment, man," Randle said of the NBA confirming the call. "There’s no point in really getting into that game and what was going on. I’m just going to say no comment.

"We’re right there. Our fight has been there every game. We just need a little more to get over the hump. We’re working every day to get there."

Just seven minutes and 16 seconds into the game a foul was called on Noel, his second of the game. And while he may have been protecting Noel, it seemed more as if Thibodeau just had a point to make as he animatedly signaled to referee Courtney Kirkland for a challenge to the call. Kirkland was the crew chief Sunday night when Thibodeau was not granted a challenge because he had not requested it in a timely manner and the crew chief again. Thibodeau lost the challenge, but in this one-sided game, it mattered little and allowed him to make his point.

New York Sports