NEW YORK (AP) — Julius Randle scored 26 points and the New York Knicks recovered after blowing an 18-point lead to beat the Toronto Raptors 102-96 on Sunday night.
RJ Barrett added 19 as the Knicks (27-27) won their second straight to get back to .500. Nerlens Noel finished with nine points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots.
“We’ve been in tough stretches, had tough games, tough breaks, close calls all season long,” Randle said. “It’s good to eventually get over that hump. Even when we were down (four) … I just felt that we were going to win the game.”
New York led 66-48 early in the third quarter but lost momentum when the game was delayed because the court was wet. The Raptors used a 37-15 run to surge to a four-point lead with 7 minutes remaining, but Barrett hit a 3-pointer with the Knicks leading by one with 35 seconds to play.
The Knicks snapped a nine-game losing streak to Toronto. New York had not beaten the Raptors since Nov. 22, 2017, at home.
“Just got to keep working at it. You never know when it’s going to change, so put everything you have into it, try to make it go your way and we did,” New York coach Tom Thibodeau said.
“There were a lot of good things to build the lead, then we struggled for a while, then we found a way at the end and I like that we had the mental toughness to sort of work our way through it and then pull it out at the end.”
Gary Trent Jr. had 23 points and Chris Boucher added 17 points and 14 rebounds for Toronto, which scored 87 points in the first half of a rout at Cleveland on Friday but found things much tougher against the Knicks.
Kyle Lowry finished with 19 points in his return to the Raptors’ lineup after missing five consecutive games with a right foot infection.
Toronto’s Malachi Flynn hit back-to-back 3s to give Toronto an 87-83 lead with 8:19 left. The Knicks then put together a 9-0 run to go up 92-87 on Alec Burks’ 3 with 3:34 remaining.
Toronto got as close as 95-94 on Lowry’s layup with 53 seconds before Randle found Barrett for his 3-pointer.
Pascal Siakam scored to cut it to 98-96 and Toronto had a chance to tie when Lowry came up with a steal to start a fast break. But Siakam was called for a double dribble with about 10 seconds left.
“Just an unfortunate one there,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. “Just unlucky there.”
Raptors: Toronto is 2-10 in the second game of a back-to-back this season. … The Raptors had their four-game winning streak at Madison Square Garden end.
Knicks: Elfrid Payton and Derrick Rose each had 11 points.
Nurse is impressed with the 20-year-old Barrett’s improvements in his second NBA season.
The Toronto product is averaging 17.6 points and shooting 45.2% from the field and 38.2% behind the 3-point line in 53 games.
“I think he just looks a lot more comfortable, to me, out there. I think he’s certainly making less mistake-type plays,” Nurse said.
Barrett was the MVP at the FIBA Under-19 World Basketball Cup in 2017 and was called up to the senior national team for the FIBA World Cup qualifying games in 2019. Nurse thinks Barrett could be a “multi-positional type player” for the Canadian team he coaches.
“I think he can bring the ball up some, I think he’s got some athleticism and length and strength to play and guard up a little bit, too. It’s good,” Nurse said. “He’s getting a lot of minutes and some good opportunities here, and experience.”
Forward Khem Birch made his Toronto debut Sunday, a day after he cleared waivers. The Montreal native is familiar with Nurse, who coached him on Canada’s 2019 FIBA World Cup team in China.
Birch had four points and five rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench.
Raptors: Begin a five-game homestand against the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday.
Knicks: Close their three-game homestand against the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday.