The Knicks finished off a five-game, 10-day road trip on Saturday night with hardly the ending they had hoped for, blowing a 23-point third-quarter lead over the Portland Trail Blazers, a team that already had given up on the season.
But there was one glimmer of hope as the Knicks went through the trade deadline idle and completed the 1-4 road trip. Julius Randle — the Julius Randle who carried the team to the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference last season — finally appeared.
Randle, who has had to answer questions about his own future with the team as his play drastically dropped from last season’s production, emerged from the trip with five-game averages of 29.2 points, 12.8 rebounds and 6.2 assists. So depending on whether you are a glass-half-full type or already drowning with the team, you can decide whether Randle’s return to form portends some sort of run by the Knicks or if it means that even when he’s at his best, it isn’t enough to push the team to wins.
Randle had 28 points, 16 rebounds and six assists Saturday and the Knicks still could not figure out a way to hang on at the Moda Center even though Portland started two players who had joined the team only days earlier.
After taking an 82-59 lead with 4:55 left in the third quarter, the Knicks were outscored 53-21 the rest of the way in a 112-103 loss to Portland.
During the trip, the Knicks also blew a 21-point second-quarter lead in a 122-115 loss to the Lakers and a 12-point lead late in the third quarter in a 113-104 loss to the Jazz.
"Honestly, I’m encouraged in a sense of this was a tough trip," Randle said, adopting the glass-half-full approach. "We played some really good teams on this trip. We were in the game and really gave ourselves a shot to win four of the five games. So I mean it’s encouraging in that sense.
"But it’s also very disappointing that we were 1-4, easily could have gone 4-1. It’s tough. It’s tough. But for me it [stinks], got a long plane ride back home. Flush it and see how I can help our team . . . finish off strong these last two games before the [All-Star] break. Hopefully we come back refreshed."
Randle’s play was a bright spot on the trip after he arrived on the road with a season filled with problems. He had feuded with hometown fans at Madison Square Garden, been fined by the NBA for refusing to speak to the media and very visibly sulked on the court at times, seeming distracted and distant from the team.
Randle isn’t exactly back to last season; he shot 29.2% from three-point range on the trip. And the Knicks were without RJ Barrett in the final two games after he suffered a sprained left ankle.
Is a return to form by Randle enough? The 1-4 record on the trip may be an indication that it is not — and cause more head-shaking about the Knicks’ decision to hold their cards at the trade deadline.
They have two home games before the All-Star break against Oklahoma City and the Nets. That Brooklyn matchup starts another brutal stretch in which they will face the Nets, Miami and Philadelphia at home and then a seven-game road trip.
"Tough trip for us," Kemba Walker said. "It wasn’t good. We had one good win. We were hoping to build off that win, but unfortunately, we didn’t. Obviously, it just wasn’t a really good trip for us."
Notes & quotes: The Knicks announced the signing of Ryan Arcidiacono for the remainder of the season. He previously signed a pair of 10-day contracts but did not appear in a game with the Knicks.