For much of the night, the Knicks seemed stuck in the mud, with their stars lost and the Memphis Grizzlies outplaying and outhustling them.
Just minutes into the game, Julius Randle went to the bench with two fouls and two ugly turnovers. Until RJ Barrett’s layup with 21 seconds left in the first half, the Knicks’ top two scorers, Randle and Barrett, didn’t have a single field goal between them.
For much of the night, it seemed as if the Knicks’ only consolation was that they wouldn’t have another close loss. But in the final six minutes of regulation, the Knicks finally began to chip away, slowly working back from a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit. And with 8.8 seconds left, Barrett drove for the tying basket.
In overtime, Randle arrived, too, draining a three-pointer to give the Knicks their first lead since 3-1.
After all of this work to get back, the Knicks didn’t give it up, securing a much-needed 133-129 win at Madison Square Garden to move to 26-27.
"We got behind and we had to fight for the whole game just to get back to where we got into position to win," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "And that’s what I liked about the team. I thought our fight was terrific, the perseverance. And in the end, we made things go our way."
By the time it was over, Randle had 15 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, his fifth triple-double of the season and a line that looked more impressive on paper than in reality. Barrett scored 18 of his 20 points after halftime. Immanuel Quickley also had 20 points and Derrick Rose and Alec Burks added 19 each.
"We needed it bad," Randle said. "And this is a way to break out of that, you know, that little slump or whatever you want to call it. This is definitely a game to do it.
"Guys stepped up. RJ stepped up, made huge plays, [Quickley] made huge plays, [Burks] made huge plays. So this is how we had to get out of it. Coach always says we get into things together, we get out of things together. And that’s what we did today."
The Knicks rallied after falling behind 106-93 with 6:10 remaining in regulation.
"They’re very confident," Thibodeau said. "They’re not going to get rattled. If things aren’t going their way, as long as they shoot the ball, they’ll keep going and they’ll figure out a way, and it’s a credit to them."
Barrett — who hit only 61.4% of his free-throw attempts as a rookie last season — was fouled while attempting a corner three-pointer with 37 seconds left and drained all three free throws to tie it at 112.
Randle, who had a nightmarish game for most of the night, had the ball and a chance for the lead with 16 seconds left in regulation, but he misfired off the glass and Jonas Valanciunas went to the line for Memphis. He hit the first but missed the second, giving Barrett the chance to tie the score. He drove down the left side of the lane and over Ja Morant for a bucket with 8.8 seconds left.
After a timeout, Morant went the length of the court and pulled up for an open 10-foot jumper, but it rimmed out, sending the game to overtime.
Back in it, the Knicks didn’t blow this chance.
Randle’s three-pointer with 3:45 left gave them a 119-117 lead. After the Grizzlies tied it, Burks drained a three. Barrett made the Knicks 3-for-3 from beyond the arc in overtime with 1:16 left.
After Dillon Brooks missed a potential game-tying three, Burks hit a jumper to push the lead to five, the Knicks’ largest lead of the night. He had nine of the Knicks’ 19 points in overtime.
Morant had 26 points and Brooks 23 for the Grizzlies (26-24), who were 21-for-34 from the line. Valanciunas added 20 points and 14 rebounds.