Fresh from his second All-Star appearance, Julius Randle continued his redemptive arc.
Randle rallied the New York Knicks past the Washington Wizards, 115-109, Friday night at the Capital One Arena to have a firm grip of the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Knicks came back from a 19-point deficit behind Randle’s career-high-tying 46 points.
Randle hit 7 of 14 from downtown as he and Jalen Brunson alternately made clutch plays down the stretch.
Randle scored five points — the go-ahead triple and two clutch free throws — within nine seconds to give the Knicks a 109-106 lead with 1:16 left.
Wizards star Bradley Beal answered with a three-pointer 16 seconds later for the game’s last deadlock.
But the crafty and feisty Brunson didn’t let Randle’s career night go to waste. His basket that kissed the glass over Kristaps Porzingis’ outstretched arms pushed the Knicks ahead for good.
Randle sealed the Knicks’ fourth straight win with a smart pass to the comebacking Mitchell Robinson for a 113-109 cushion with 11 seconds left.
Winning their 18th win on the road, second most in the league behind the Boston Celtics, looked unlikely for the Knicks in the first half when Porzingis and the Wizards waxed hot from the get-go.
Porzingis dropped 19 points behind a perfect 5 for 5 shooting from behind the arc in the first quarter. The Wizards made 11 of their first 16 three-point attempts as they built a 57-38 lead.
Washington was still holding a 14-point lead, 62-48, with 2:43 left in the first half when Randle caught fire. The two-time All-Star personally outscored the Wizards, 11-2, and brought the Knicks within striking distance, 64-60, at the break.
New York seized its first lead since 21-20 with an 8-0 start in the third quarter.
Porzingis was limited to only four points the rest of the way as Randle completely outplayed the former New York cornerstone he replaced.
Randle shot 16 of 29 overall and was perfect from the line (7-7). He became the third Knicks player with multiple games of at least 45 points and five three-pointers, joining Carmelo Anthony (4 times) and Jamal Crawford (twice).
RJ Barrett and Brunson added 14 and 13 points. Robinson returned from a 14-game absence looking fit and spry as he finished with a double-double (10 points and 12 rebounds).
Isaiah Hartenstein picked up from where he left off before the All-Star break. His four points and 10 rebounds ensured the Knicks had a solid 48 minutes at the center position.
Immanuel Quickley led the bench with 16 points while Josh Hart produced five points, six rebounds, four assists and his usual hustle plays to energize the Knicks.
The win gave the Knicks (34-27) a 1 1/2 game cushion over the seventh place Miami Heat (32-28) and just 1 1/2 game back of the fifth seed Brooklyn Nets (34-25), who both lost their first game after the All-Star break.
The Knicks will try to sustain their hot streak when they host the New Orleans Pelicans Saturday at the Garden.
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