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Julius Randle's triple-double, RJ Barrett's 32 points help Knicks silence undermanned Thunder 

Thunder guard Kenrich Williams, center, goes against Knicks

Thunder guard Kenrich Williams, center, goes against Knicks guard RJ Barrett, left, and forward Julius Randle, right, during the first half of an NBA game Saturday in Oklahoma City. Credit: AP/Garett Fisbeck

They really needed this one.

The Knicks scored an important bounce-back win in Oklahoma City on Saturday, beating an injury-hampered Thunder team, 119-97.

Julius Randle and RJ Barrett came up with big-time performances for a win that gave the Knicks (20-19) an important emotional boost after a non-competitive loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.

Barrett scored a career-high 32 points in 36 minutes. It was the third straight game in which he scored at least 20.

Randle, who struggled in Milwaukee, logged his second triple-double of the season with 26 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists. Remarkably, that makes him the first Knick to have multiple triple-doubles in a season since Mark Jackson in 1988-89.

"They’re our leaders," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I thought they stepped up and set the tone for us."

He added, "Mark was a great talent, a great Knick, great guy, too. I think it is a little bit surprising [it’s been that long], but Julius had a monster game. To score the way he did, the assists, the all-around play, I think that’s what leaders do.

"His season, the numbers speak for themselves. But his impact on winning has been huge and his leadership has been terrific. And so I am surprised by that stat, but it’s pretty good company to be in."

The Knicks also are in surprisingly good company as they are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference and just a half-game out of the No. 4 spot.

It was important that this game didn’t end on a sour note after the Knicks suffered a 33-point loss to the Bucks. In their first four games out of the All-Star break, Oklahoma City was the one likely opportunity for success. The Knicks’ next two games are against the Nets and the 76ers, the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.

Oklahoma City (16-22) was without several key players, including their most dynamic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was out with a quadriceps contusion. Al Horford led the Thunder with 16 points.

The Knicks were missing a few key players of their own. Elfrid Payton has a hamstring injury and Derrick Rose is out because of health and safety protocols. Their unavailability meant that Frank Ntilikina got his second start. He played only seven minutes, did not score and committed two early fouls.

He was replaced by rookie guard Immanuel Quickley, who had been questionable for the game with a sore groin. Quickley hit three of his first four shots and finished with 21 points and 9-for-16 shooting in a career-high 33 minutes off the bench.

The Knicks survived a terrible first period as Oklahoma City shot 70.6% and scored 31 points. The Knicks finally took control of the game in the third quarter, when their defense ignited an 18-3 run to give them a 12-point lead.

Randle scored 13 points in the fourth quarter as the Knicks extended their lead to as many as 26 points.

"I had to bounce back, man," Randle said about his thoughts going into the game. "I’m usually not great first game out of All-Star break. I know that myself. I tried to lock in, but history just repeated itself. So I got right back into it and got a win."

Randle’s 12 assists were a career high. The triple-double was the eighth of his career.

Said Barrett: "We just wanted to come out today and be us. Today we came out and played and got the job done."

New York Sports