NEW YORK (AP) — Immanuel Quickley scored 18 of his 25 points in the first half, and Julius Randle had 21 points and 14 rebounds to power the New York Knicks to a 140-121 win over the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night.
Quickley and Randle were two of six Knicks players to finish in double figures in scoring as New York improved to 16-17. Alec Burks had 24 off the bench, Derrick Rose finished with 18, RJ Barrett had 12 and Reggie Bullock chipped in with 10 as the Knicks had a season high for points.
“That’s the great part about this team,” Quickley said about the Knicks’ unity. “Whoever, we roll with them.”
While the Knicks cruised to their fifth win in their last seven games, Sacramento’s freefall continued. The Kings (12-20) dropped their ninth straight, a stretch in which they have allowed 126.3 points per game.
“How smart are we playing defensively?” Harrison Barnes asked rhetorically following his 22-point effort. “We have to play the game within the game better.”
De’Aaron Fox scored 29 points for the Kings. Marvin Bagley III added 19 and Tyrese Haliburton 17.
Barring both teams making unexpected runs to the NBA Finals, the Kings and Knicks entered the second and presumably final matchup of the season on significantly different trajectories. Sacramento appears to be a team that is trying to learn about itself while the Knicks have clearly defined expectations as to how they play.
And that was on full display.
New York led 77-62 at halftime due to a team approach in which all but one player scored in the opening 24 minutes. The Knicks shot 65.9% from the field (29 for 44), 52.9% from 3-point range (9 for 17) and knocked down all 10 free throws they attempted. Of New York’s 29 first-half baskets, 15 came off of assists.
In short, they were not a one-man gang — even if Randle and Quickley received “MVP” chants from the Madison Square Garden crowd.
“(Hearing the fans) chant ‘MVP’ for some of our players (feels) just amazing,” Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina said about the crowd, which also revived the franchise’s iconic ‘Dee-fense’ chant. “Just to feel that energy again and them chanting ‘Dee-fense,’ that’s huge. That’s huge.”
New York extended its lead to as much as 18 midway through the third quarter after Randle knocked down a 10-footer with 6:59 left, but the Kings ended the period on a 22-11 run which was capped by Fox’s buzzer-beating layup.
New York opened the fourth quarter with a 20-7 run to stretch its lead from 101-94 to 121-101. Burks capped the stretch with long 3-pointers on consecutive possessions.
“We feel those moments,” Randle said about the Knicks’ ability to overcome adversity. “I think the good thing is that we’re recognizing those moments and we tighten up in those moments. And execute.”
Kings: They wrapped up their two-game New York City excursion by saying goodbye to one teammate and hello to new one. Sacramento waived Glenn Robinson III on Wednesday and announced the signing of Norvel Pelle. In 23 games with the Kings, Robinson averaged 5.3 points, two rebounds, and 0.9 assists. Pelle, waived by the Nets on Feb. 16, averaged two points, 2.3 rebounds, and one block per game in three games with Brooklyn. “It has been a tough couple days,” Kings coach Luke Walton acknowledged during his pregame availability.
Knicks: They entered the day with the same exact record and points percentage as the eighth-seeded Miami Heat and divisional rival Boston Celtics. But coach Tom Thibodeau is not planning a parade even though the franchise has been in the league’s wilderness for the better part of two decades. “I don’t want us to get lost (and look) too far ahead,” Thibodeau said before the game.
Kings: Visit Detroit on Friday night.
Knicks: Host Indiana on Saturday night.
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