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Julius Randle leads Knicks over shorthanded Wizards

Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) shoots next to

Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) shoots next to Washington Wizards center Ian Mahinmi (28) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Washington.  Credit: AP/Nick Wass

WASHINGTON — Perhaps the most fitting way to describe Saturday night’s game between the struggling Knicks and the depleted Wizards is this: Included in the visiting media package was a sleep mask, which also served the purpose of avoiding the sight of what was on the court.

The Knicks were a more representative squad than the Wizards, who were missing seven of their top players. They started a pair of players who were signed using the hardship exemption but still boasted a better record than the Knicks and had the bragging rights of having beaten the Knicks on Monday at Madison Square Garden.

The Wizards were without eight players that night, but at least they had Bradley Beal, their best player. He was sidelined Saturday with lower leg soreness.

But just as they had Monday, the Wizards — or the remnants of the Capital City Go Go, their G League affiliate — gave the Knicks all they could handle. Trailing by 15 points in the third quarter, the Wizards fought back to take the lead and then scrapped to the final minutes before succumbing, 107-100, at Capital One Arena.

Leading 92-91 with just over nine minutes left, the Wizards missed 12 of their next 13 shots.

Julius Randle carried the Knicks (9-24) with 30 points, 16 rebounds and six assists. It was his third consecutive game with at least 30 points, and he is averaging 32.7 points per game in that span.

Bobby Portis had 17 points off the bench. Isaiah Thomas and Jordan McRae had 20 each for Washington (9-22).

“I think we responded. We responded, man,” Randle said. “We’re professionals. We’re serious about what we’re doing. It’s not about the start of the game. It’s about when they made runs how we responded, and mentally I think we were sharp, responded well.

“It’s really hard, man, because those guys are playing, fighting for jobs whether it’s here or with another team. They’re playing with a ‘we have nothing to lose mentality’ because they’re kind of getting their first shot. It’s extremely tough. They’re going to go out and play extremely hard.

“People say it all the time — playing hard in the NBA is a skill. From night to night, you don’t see teams always play extremely hard like that. They play hard, so hats off to those guys. They do a great job.”

“We didn’t go in the summer thinking eight of our top rotation guys will be out,” said Wizards coach Scott Brooks, who in his playing days was a marginal roster guy who would have loved these opportunities. “But if that’s the case, you want your G League guys to be ready to play and the system is in place.

“That’s also the fun part of coaching the group. This is a team that has to learn on the fly and they’re basically thrown into the fire. They’re responding with great effort. When I talk to them, we’re going to make up for the lack of experience with great effort. When you care, you play hard, that gives you a good chance to compete.”

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