If Jalen Brunson is the New York Knicks‘ ultimate closer, then Julius Randle is their tone-setter.
Randle dropped 13 of his season-high 42 points in the opening quarter that set the tone for the Knicks’ season sweep of the Detroit Pistons Sunday on the road.
His opening-quarter scoring outbursts have become one of the signatures for the rampaging Knicks, who have won 15 of their last 21 games to crack the top six of the Eastern Conference.
Randle is among the top five players in the league in the first quarter scoring, averaging 8.8 points trailing Kevin Durant (9.3), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (9.3), Joel Embiid (9.5) and Luka Doncic (11.2).
Against the Pistons, Randle feasted early as he bullied his way to six points inside the paint and hit 2 of 4 of his jumpers.
“I thought he set the tone for us and then watching them play, getting ready to play them. I knew how well they had been playing and sometimes that’s hard to get across, but I thought Julius (Randle) helped set the tone for being ready. And I think getting that lead early. We needed all of it — being ready to play.”Tom Thibodeau postgame via MSG Network
A big part of Randle’s quick starts is attributed to his new approach this season, incorporating meditation into his pre-game routine, which puts him in a good space to start games.
On Sunday, Randle also grabbed 15 rebounds and fell one-rebound short of extending his 16-rebound effort to a fourth straight game. Nonetheless, his 42-point and 15-rebound game was the first in Knicks history in the regular season in nearly three decades since Patrick Ewing in 1996.
It was also Randle’s 10th straight double-double, hiking his total to 26 this season.
Over his last 10 games, Randle is averaging 29.4 points and 14.4 rebounds to become the first Knick to do that feat since Ewing in 1990.
Randle finished what he started, hitting two straight buckets after the Pistons came within seven with over five minutes left in the game. He capped his monster effort with 11 in the final quarter.
“And then whenever we needed a big bucket, [Randle] stepped up and delivered, but his defense and rebounding were just huge. And he got every bit of big rebound on the stretch and he had some tough covers. He’s all over the place. He’s on the perimeter, guarding guards and everything else, so I thought he was terrific.”Tom Thibodeau postgame via MSG Network
Randle’s concerted effort on defense has been felt over the Knicks’ turnaround in their last 21 games, with a team-second-best defensive rating of 108.4, behind Mitchell Robinson’s 105.4.
There is no doubt Randle is playing much better than his first All-Star appearance two seasons ago when he led the Knicks to a postseason run in Thibodeau’s first year as their head coach.
After a blip last season, Randle is poised to repeat that with a much different focus every night.
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