The New York Knicks went to their defense and their big guns when the going got tough to pull off an ugly 91-84 win Monday at The Garden.
Struggling all game long, Julius Randle picked the right time to come alive.
Randle pumped in seven points and pulled two huge rebounds inside the final 93 seconds that carried the Knicks to their second straight win.
The Knicks moved up to 7-8, a big turnaround from last season. It took them 28 games to reach seven wins last year.
But it wasn’t easy. The Knicks showed tremendous growth and a lot of fight to pull off the close win.
“It was a tough one for us. [It’s] Tough to have a back-to-back schedule. Two early games are even tougher. [Magic] were a good team. We stayed together. We get it done,” Randle said postgame. “We got the job done.”
Randle helped the Knicks get the job done by continuing to make plays despite his worst shooting performance this season.
“When shots are not falling, you have to find another way to help the team,” Randle said.
“I stayed mentally strong the whole game. The body is fine. I had hard long summer to prepare for this.”
The Knicks’ starting power forward looked exhausted at times as he struggled to shoot. He went 5-for-19 from the field. But he still willed his way to a massive double-double of 21 points and 17 rebounds.
Barrett also had another strong performance coming away with 22 points, including a transition basket off a Magic turnover that gave the Knicks a four-point cushion, 85-81, down the stretch.
The sophomore wing added 10 rebounds and four assists.
Immanuel Quickley scored 11 points off the bench, but Elfrid Payton played solid (12 points and four assists) to earn the nod to close out the game. Payton was a team-high +/- 20 in this win.
The Knicks nearly squandered a 14-point lead as the Magic got hot in the fourth quarter.
â€œThey showed a lot of toughness,â€™â€™ Thibodeau said. â€œI knew it would be a challenge for us â€” back-to-back, early start. We played with the lead for most of the game. Then we took the hit to start the fourth quarter. Having the ability to take a punch, keep fighting and finding a way to win thatâ€™s a big part of this league. I loved the toughness we showed down the stretch.â€™
The Knicks missed 10 free throws in a game that had the 90s vibes.
Magic coach Steve Clifford and Thibodeau, who both came from the 90s Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy tree, had a chess match.
With both defensive coaches exchanging tactical moves, neither team shot well. The Knicks shot 35.6 percent, but the Magic were worse with 33.7 percent.
It marked the second straight game that the Knicks have held their opponents under 85 points and under 35 percent. Orlando, though, fared better than Boston, which only scored 75 against New York’s defense in a 30-point rout Sunday.
The Knicks made their free throws when it mattered. They sank their last seven at the line to survive the Magic’s comeback.
Orlando took the lead briefly on a Terrence Ross’s magical heave with the shot clock winding down, 81-80. But they fell apart in front of the Knicks’ tenacious defense.
Nikola Vucevic paced the Magic, who fell to their sixth straight loss, with 24 points and 14 rebounds.
The Knicks will fly to the West Coast and play another back-to-back game against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday and the Sacramento Kings on Friday before closing out the tough week schedule in Portland on Sunday.
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