Doc Rivers on Knicks star Julius Randle: ‘He changed the narrative on him’

Julius Randle earned a fan in Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers after the New York Knicks star single-handedly put them away down the stretch on Monday night.

Randle scored 10 of his game-high 31 points in the final 4:46 as the Knicks beat the Sixers for the second straight time this season, 103-96, after enduring a 15-game losing streak against them.

“He made that one runner, whatever that thing was, that was just a brutally tough shot,” said Rivers referring to Randle’s drive against Furkan Korkmaz that started the Knicks’ 14-8 closing run from a slim 89-88 lead. “He’s making the catch-and-shoot 3s. Give him credit. He’s a great kid. He’s worked his butt off, changed the narrative on him. So, give him all the credit. I’m very happy for him, except for tonight.”

The former lottery pick started to change his narrative last year when he led the Knicks to a surprising playoff run. As the Knicks leading man, Randle became a first-time All-Star, won the Most Improved Player of the Year, and made it to the All-NBA Second Team.

On Monday night, Randle flexed his muscle as he took advantage of the decimated Sixers’ frontline. Without Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris, who joined Matisse Thybulle in the health and safety protocols, Randle wreaked havoc. He shot 12 of 25 from the floor and went 5 for 10 from the three-point line.

“He made some tough shots,” Rivers added. “We were undersized. I thought a couple of them, we were gonna switch and didn’t, that would’ve put a smaller guy on him, which wouldn’t have helped. He knows how to use his body. He’s tough.”

Randle toyed around every Sixers defender thrown at him from the 6-foot-7 Korkmaz to 6-foot-6 Danny Green.

“We had Danny [Green] guarding him for the majority of the game,” said Seth Curry. “I hope he had a good matchup for him. He grinded it out. [He] forced some tough shots and still, that’s a guy you just shake his hand. Danny worked hard.”

Andre Drummond, who grabbed 25 rebounds and scored 14 points as a fill-in starter for Embiid, couldn’t think of a better defensive coverage against Randle. The Sixers just didn’t have any abled body to slow down Randle on Monday night.

“He’s a great player,” said Drummond of Randle. “He had somebody who was three or four inches shorter than him. He’s shooting over the top of him. There’s not much you can do. We played him to the best of our ability, and he made shots. He’s an NBA player.”

While Randle had an easier time against the shorthanded Sixers, it certainly won’t be the case on Wednesday when the Knicks host the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks led by two-time MVP and last Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Bucks will be playing the second night of a back-to-back schedule after beating the same shorthanded Sixers team on Tuesday night, 118-109.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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