Knicks News: Coaches, scouts rave about RJ Barrett’s incredible growth

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Without second-year player RJ Barrett, the New York Knicks would be struggling in some categories. Of course, All-Star Julius Randle has led their team to success this season, and Barrett has fed off of that production and efficiency. However, Barrett has taken massive strides forward in his point production, increasing from 14.3 in 2019 to 17.7 to the 2020–21 season.

In addition, he’s averaging more steals per game, rebounds per game, and his free-throw percentage has ballooned to .745. He’s shooting .445 from the field and nearly .400 from three-point land, indicating an increase in efficiency with his shooting.

“His shooting,” Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego said raved about RJ Barrett, according to ESPN. “You can start there. Just the ability to shoot the ball now. He looks a lot more comfortable, more confident in his shot. He’s made a lot more plays. I think his playmaking has really taken a step there — and a lot of that comes out of your confidence in shooting the ball.”

“I think players in general, when they can shoot the ball and they can get downhill, they get much more comfortable making plays off the bounce and making plays for other people.”

Barrett has quickly put himself in conversation to be the next star in the NBA, but he does have some weaknesses that need to be refined if he wants to take that next step forward. The Knicks will be looking to add another big-time player next summer in free agency, but they may already have a budding one on the roster to help push the steam forward and hopefully compete for a championship in the next few years.

One scout was a bit more critical of Barrett’s game, indicating that he’s not a star-level player and more of a complementary option. While I disagree with that narrative, he has certainly benefited from the rise of Randle and complimented him very nicely.

“I don’t view him as a franchise or star-level player,” a Western Conference executive said. “I think he’s a complementary scorer and bucket-getter. His shooting has helped his efficiency, but he still plays a lot off the bounce and hasn’t proven able to make those shots.

RJ has an opportunity to squash this narrative, as the Knicks have two competitive matchups against the LA Clippers and Lakers over the next few days. Stellar performances from Barrett might quiet the haters, as they desperately need him to rise to the occasion and help extract a few victories on this tough road stretch.

 

Knicks news: 3 keys to beating the Nuggets in Denver

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Let the games begin, the New York Knicks are scheduled to face off against the Denver Nuggets, who are currently locked into the fourth seed in the Western Conference on Wednesday evening. Denver is no pushover, as the Knicks prepare for a four-game stretch where they take on the Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, LA Clippers, and Los Angeles Lakers, all of which are in top-six seeds in the West.

This will be a true challenge for the Knicks, who have won 12 of their last 13 games but haven’t had any significant challenges, aside from Phoenix, who represents their only loss during that stretch. Nonetheless, New York is more than capable of hanging with these teams, as the Knicks should’ve beat Phoenix if not for Julius Randle struggling and Chris Paul working some magic at the end. Randle having inadequate games is an anomaly these days, having posted 28 points against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday and 31 points against Houston on Sunday.

Three keys to beating the Denver Nuggets for the Knicks:

1.) Defense, defense, defense

The main task for New York is to limit any given team defensively, using their aggressive and suffocating style of play.

The Knicks rank first in the NBA in points allowed per game, with just 104.6. In comparison to Denver, they are allowing an average of 109.9, which is a significant difference. However, Denver has three elite scorers on their team, including Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr., who are averaging 19+ points per game. However, Jamal Murray suffered a season-ending injury, so he won’t be available for Denver’s remainder of the season, giving the Knicks a slight advantage.

If the Knicks realistically want to walk away with a win, they are going to need to play elite defense, which we know they are capable of doing. As long as they can stop Denver from blowing this one open and scoring 120+ points, the Knicks will have a chance at keeping a close. The usual method for New York is late-game fatigue, which allows their opponents to turn on the afterburner’s and hit shots to pull away. The squad has done a much better job closing out games and playing solid defense, meaning they will need to continue that trend.

2.) Limit the big two

As stated before, stopping Jokic and Porter Jr. must be the priority. Jokic is averaging 26.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 8.5 assist as a center, which is absolutely mind-blowing. Porter has earned 18.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, and has turned the ball over just 1.2 times, showcasing his skills.

The Knicks have a great defense, but this team is capable of blowing out anybody with ease, and they are also enjoying a nice win streak of their own. They most recently fell to the Los Angeles Lakers but have won nine of their last 11 games.

3.) Julius Randle must play ELITE basketball

There’s one simple truth to New York, as long as Julius Randle is playing elite-level basketball, the rest of the team rallies around him. His co-star, RJ Barrett, turns up the notch when Randle is hitting shots consistently. It doesn’t seem like the first time All-Star is ready to slow down anytime soon, showing off impeccable stamina and consistency the past few months. In addition, veteran point guard Derrick Rose seems rejuvenated, even looking like his vintage self at times. Pairing Rose with Randle and Barrett has proved to be a nice trio.

Knicks sweep Rockets for the first time in 18 years, inch closer to playoffs

Houston Rockets rookie coach Stephen Silas first saw this type of New York basketball almost three decades ago when he was a Knicks ball boy.

His father, Paul Silas, was one of former Knicks coach Pat Riley’s assistants in 1992. The younger Silas, a high school kid back then, relished the moment of picking up the ball for Patrick Ewing and co. and watching them play tough and physical from the Garden stanchion during the Knicks’ glory days. 

On Sunday night, he watched a reincarnation of that old Knicks squad crushed his young Rockets team in a 122-97 masterclass at the Toyota Center.

“They will try to grind you down, almost like they used to be when I was a ballboy for the Knicks with Patrick (Ewing) and Oak (Charles Oakley) and Mark (Jackson,)” Silas said before the game. They are a tough team.”

On top of that impenetrable defense, the Knicks continued to showcase their impeccable outside shooting. They fired 18 threes on an efficient 51.4 percent clip to kickstart May after leading the league in three-point accuracy (42.2 percent) last month. 

Tom Thibodeau, who indirectly came from the Riley coaching tree via Jeff Van Gundy, has successfully blended the old Knicks’ defensive toughness with an offense that is more in tune with modern times. 

The Rockets fell prey to the league’s top three-point defense, hitting only eight three-pointers. The Knicks held them to 43 percent shooting from the field and 22.9 percent from deep.

Julius Randle got plenty of rest for the second game of their back-to-back schedule tomorrow night in Memphis.

Randle led the Knicks with 31 points in just 30 minutes. It was the eighth time in the last 10 games Randle put up at least 30 points.

The first-time NBA All-Star added seven rebounds and six assists as he received MVP chants on the road. After Randle knocked down back-to-back treys that broke the game wide open in the third quarter, Knicks executive vice president and senior advisor William Wesley aka World Wide Wes, could not contain his emotion and admiration. The Knicks top executive’s animated celebration appeared to be a validation of his offseason move that pushed Randle to All-Star level.

Already assured of at least a play-in spot, the Knicks have higher aspirations, and it showed in their performance tonight that set the tone for their six-game West Coast trip.

The win pushed the Knicks closer to ending their seven-year playoff drought. Even if they drop all their remaining games, the Knicks are still assured of a .500 season. The hottest team in the league, winners of 11 of their last 12 games, continue to hold 1.5 games lead over the Atlanta Hawks and the Miami Heat — both sporting a 35-30 record — for the fourth seed in the East. The Knicks hope to maintain that sole position that comes with a homecourt edge in the first round of the playoffs.

But the win proved costly, though as Nerlens Noel rolled his ankle with 6:57 left in the third quarter and did not return.

The Knicks are already without Mitchell Robinson, who Thibodeau said has no timetable yet for his return. 

The ageless Taj Gibson gave the Knicks a huge lift off the bench with six points and five rebounds in 31 minutes. He had a game-high plus/minus plus-36. Derrick Rose came next with plus-35 in a huge offensive night.

Rose caught up with his former Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek, who currently serves as a Rockets assistant, before the game. Then he proceeded to match his season-high scoring with 24 points on 8-of-11 shots. Ten years removed from being the league’s youngest MVP, Rose is blooming once again. The 32-year old guard added six rebounds, four assists, and one steal. 

He spearheaded the Knicks bench which exploded for 50 points that complemented Randle’s big night.

Immanuel Quickley joined the party with 13 points and three threes, including one near the center court logo.

RJ Barrett barrelled his way to 21 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and two steals in 40 minutes.

The Rockets gave Silas a semblance of hope when they led, 15-10, in the first quarter. But it turned out to be their last gallant stand as he was quickly reminded of the old Knicks team he used to watch up close in the 90s. 

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks News: RJ Barrett speaks words of wisdom, Julius Randle the catalyst

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The New York Knicks are headed into arguably the most important string of games of their entire season as they look to hold onto the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference. Currently, the Knicks are 1.5 games ahead of the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics, giving them a nice little cushion to work with.

Luckily, the Knicks are preparing to take on the Houston Rockets, who are arguably the worst team in the NBA but have been playing better as of late, winning their last game against the Milwaukee Bucks in a shoot-out. Kevin Porter Jr. posted 50 points, while Christian Wood earned 30 and Kelly Olynyk 24.

However, New York has the best defense in the NBA, allowing just 104.7 points per game, so the Rockets will have a difficult match-up on Sunday evening. In addition, they will be coming off a contest against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday evening, so fatigue will undoubtedly be playing a factor.

Despite the record, the Knicks are 100% focused on the task ahead and treating every game like a playoff-caliber exhibition. If you treat every game the same way, with high intensity and aggression, the playoffs will seem like a breeze.

“We love big games. Who doesn’t want to play against the best of the best?” Barrett said Saturday after practice. “It’s kind of what I grew up wanting to do. It’s going to be a great challenge for us. Just excited to get going.”

After the Rockets, the Knicks take one step closer toward a four-game streak on the West Coast, taking on the Phoenix Suns, LA Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, and San Antonio Spurs. That difficult string of opponents will prove to be the Knicks’ biggest challenge yet, and walking away with a few victories would give them tremendous confidence with the regular season nearing its end.

“What we’re doing is just thinking about Houston, and that’s really what we’ve done well all season long,” Thibodeau said. “We’ve had different stretches of the season where you have a bunch of games like [this]. I think the important thing is to have a routine of how you prepare for each game, and don’t get away from it.”

The Knicks rally around Julius Randle:

The Knicks might be the hottest team in the NBA right now, winning 10 of their last 11 games, with their only loss coming against the Phoenix Suns when Julius Randle struggled to get going, posting just 18 points. He rebounded against the Bulls with 34 points, showing that his small blip was nothing but an anomaly.

The reality for this passionate Knicks team is that when Julius Randle is playing well, everybody rallies around him and rises to the occasion. He is their esteemed leader, and as long as he remains consistent, they will be in good shape.

Knicks News: RJ Barrett’s improvement will blow your mind, what does Luca Vildoza bring?

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If not for the magical development of New York Knicks‘ 20-year-old shooting guard RJ Barrett, they might not be as successful as they’ve been this season. Currently sitting in the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, Barrett has been the Robin to Julius Randle’s Batman.

Randle is having an MVP caliber season, and he’s dragging Barrett along with him as one of the best young players in the NBA. So far this season, RJ is averaging 17.6 points per game, a 3.3 point increase from his rookie season in 2019–20.

Barrett is also averaging 3.0 assists and 5.7 total rebounds per game. His .449 shooting percentage from the field is almost a .05% increase, and his three-point percentage has seen a .07% increase, skyrocketing from .320 a .390. Altogether, his statistics have taken a significant step forward in the right direction, and the Knicks couldn’t be happier about his development as he trends toward becoming a star.

However, if not for a few veteran mentors, Barrett’s development might be a bit slower. Point guard Derrick Rose has played a significant part in helping him mentally.

“At halftime, whenever I get a chance, I try to get him, get out of his own head, get out of his own way and let him know, ‘Don’t get frustrated,’ ’’ Rose said. “He does miss shots … [but] he’s a perfectionist, so whenever I see him down, I try to talk to him as much as possible. And the second half, he came out totally aggressive.’’

Responding to Rose’s comments, Barrett confirmed the assumption that he’s a “perfectionist.”

“Yeah, yeah I am that,’’ Barrett said sheepishly, scratching his face. “I will say that. I hate when everything’s not perfect. I hate missing. If I do everything right and I miss the shot or I do everything right then I turn over the ball, I hate when things aren’t perfect.”

What are the New York Knicks getting in Luca Vildoza?

Vildoza signed with the Knicks, who is working on a buyout with Bastonia, his current Spanish club. The 25-year-old can play both guard positions and is shooting 38% this year, scoring over 10 points per game.

While Luca isn’t eligible to play just yet, he will be available for the postseason, representing a finisher from the point guard position and someone who can create with either hand. He can hit shots from all levels of the court and has a bit of flair to his game. He should add a well-rounded presence at the PG position, something the Knicks have been lacking behind Derrick Rose.

They don’t like to use Immanuel Quickley in that role, pairing him as a shooting guard with Rose or Elfrid Peyton. Having quality depth down the stretch is extremely important, especially as fatigue starts to set in with aggressive play during playoff games.

Quickley sparks Knicks big win over Bulls, claims solo 4th

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Rookie guard Immanuel Quickley caught fire in the fourth quarter as the New York Knicks quickly returned to the win column.

The Knicks (35-28) notched their 10th win in 11 games after taming the Chicago Bulls, 113-94, Wednesday night at the Garden.

It was a big bounce-back win for the Knicks following a slip up against the Phoenix Suns, the second-best team in the West, last Monday. They find themselves all alone again as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference after the Atlanta Hawks fell to the Philadephia 76ers earlier.

They had Quickley to thank for.

The rookie guard dropped 11 quick points in a dizzying 15-2 Knicks run to start of the fourth quarter. The Bulls never recovered.

“We just enjoy playing with each other,” Quickley said. “Everything is clicking. We just want to continue to take the right steps and just try and make a playoff push.”

By the time Quickley went out after picking up his fifth foul, the Knicks had transformed a precarious one-point lead to a dozen, 91-79, with 6:39 left.

The Knicks stepped on the pedal with Nerlens Noel anchoring their interior defense. Reggie Bullock and RJ Barrett hit a pair of dagger threes then Julius Randle brought them home with eight of his game-high 34 points inside the final two minutes.

It was Randle’s seventh 30-point game in their last nine outings.

Randle sat on the bench when the Knicks pulled away in the fourth quarter. But he returned to the floor when the Bulls cut the Knicks lead to nine, 93-84, with 5:36 left.

New York blew hot and cold through the first three quarters before going full throttle in the fourth quarter. The Knicks outscored the Bulls, 37-19, in the final 12 minutes.

With Randle smoking hot in the first half, New York raced to an 18-point lead. But the Knicks let the Bulls hang around to Tom Thibodeau’s chagrin.

Not even a technical foul could calm him down. But it worked as the Knicks responded and turned up the heat when it mattered.

Quickley picked up the slack for Derrick Rose, who had an off night.

The rookie spitfire finished with 13 points off the bench. Rose, who starred in his hometown Chicago as the youngest MVP early in his NBA career, added six points and six assists.

But it wasn’t only Quickley who rose to the occasion. In a typical Knicks fashion this season, there were plenty of heroes.

Noel was all over the court for the Knicks. He countered Nikola Vucevic’s monster game of 26 points and 18 rebounds with a defensive masterclass. Noel collected five shot blocks and four steals along with eight points, eight rebounds, and three assists.

Bullock hit three triples and ended up with 13 points. Barrett was efficient with 22 points on 9-of-15 shots. He also stuffed the stats sheet with seven rebounds, six assists, two steals, and one block.

The win was a fitting sendoff for the Knicks before they embark on a tough six-game West Coast trip beginning on Sunday in Houston.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

 

Knicks: 3 keys to beating the Phoenix Suns on Monday

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The New York Knicks are preparing to take on the Phoenix Suns on Monday evening in an attempt to stretch their winning streak 210 games. The Suns, however, ranked second in the Western Conference and will be a significant challenge for a New York team that has elevated their level of play recently.

Phoenix has a stellar team, led by Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton, and Chris Paul. I would be remiss not to mention Mikal Bridges as well, as the Suns have a very talented starting five, with four of them averaging over 13 points per game.

Stopping them will be incredibly difficult for the Knicks, but luckily they host the number one defense in the NBA and have regularly kept teams below 105 points, giving themselves a great chance of extracting victory on any given evening.

However, Starting Center Nerlens Noel understands that there’s a lot more work to do and goals to accomplish.

“There’s still so much work to do,” Noel said Sunday. “But I think it’s a special moment, special year, special season. And you really want to cap it off in the best way possible.”

Three keys to beating the Phoenix Suns for the Knicks:

1. Maintain a lead

Even Phoenix forward Torrey Craig admitted that the team struggles when they don’t have the lead. He suggested that they have to play better with a lead and learn how to stay composed throughout the game, and with the Knicks’ tantalizing defense, it will be difficult for them to break away.

As long as Tom Thibodeau and his team remain committed to their biggest strength, they will be in this contest, and there’s no doubt they can emerge victorious when considering their most recent success.

2. Limit Chris Paul

Limiting Chris Paul is easier said than done, as he’s averaging 16 points per game, 8.7 assists, and 4.6 rebounds. He ranks fifth in total assists and 52nd in points, as he’s experienced somewhat of a resurgence with Phoenix this year.

As long as the Knicks protect the paint and keep defenders on Paul, they can limit his influence, but he will leave his mark one way or another. Alternatively, their biggest problem might be Devin Booker, who’s averaging 25.3 points, as the Suns’ leading scorer. While his three-point percentage is lacking this year, he’s incredibly talented from mid-range and driving to the rim. Protecting the elbow and perimeter will be important, and thankfully the Knicks will have their star shot blocker this year, Noel, available to help protect the interior.

3. Batman and Robin must score

The Knicks’ offense simply runs through Julius Randle and RJ Barrett, who are having themselves stellar seasons thus far. Randle earned his first All-Star appearance this year, averaging 24 points per game and 10.5 rebounds over 37.5 minutes. Barrett, on the other hand, is averaging 17.6 points and 5.7 rebounds, showing an incredible developmental leap this season.

The chemistry that Randle and Barrett have shown has not only fueled the team but help supplement a less than inspiring offense at times. As long as those two are playing efficient basketball and producing on the scoreboard, the Knicks always have a good chance of emerging victorious.

Barrett’s explosion keys Knicks’ 7th straight win

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Just as when the law of averages seemed to have caught up with the New York Knicks, they still found a way to extend the league’s current longest winning streak.

The Knicks entered Tuesday night’s game on a roll with sixth straight wins and the league’s top 3-point defense. But the Charlotte Hornets posed a significant challenge in the first half, hitting 13-of-19 three-pointers.

Then the Knicks tightened up the loose ends on their defense in the second half and rode on RJ Barrett’s explosion to repel the Hornets, 109-97, Tuesday night at The Garden for their seventh straight win.

Tom Thibodeau made the necessary adjustments, and the result was disastrous for the Hornets, who were a measly 3-for-20 from beyond the arc in the second half.

“I thought our defense in the second half was much better. We contained the dribble drive better. We made a better effort. We moved down on the fly with the ball. We challenged shots,” Thibodeau said.

After a torrid stretch that earned him his first NBA Player of the Week award, Julius Randle cooled off as he was the focal point of the Hornets defense. But Randle did plenty of other stuff to impact the game.

Randle set up Barrett for consecutive three-point shots to get going in the third quarter. Barrett, who missed seven in a row in the first half after his first basket, keyed New York’s turnaround.

Barrett took over in the third quarter and outscored the entire Hornets team, 18-16, as the Knicks built a nine-point lead.

The sophomore wing was a perfect 4-of-4 from 3 in that pivotal period and finished with 24 points to pace the Knicks. He had a career-high-tying six threes.

PJ Washington, who smoked the Knicks with 21 points off the bench in the first half, led the Hornets with 26.

With Barrett on fire, the Knicks turned a six-point halftime deficit into a 91-82 lead, which they never relinquished.

“That’s what Julius has done all year. He didn’t score the ball like he usually does, but he made plays for us, and he has great awareness of what’s going on in the game. He gets people going,” Thibodeau said.

RJ, in the second half, got a great rhythm going. He’s been shooting the 3 great for us. He gotta continue to do that. But Julius can beat you a lot in different ways. He can beat you with the pass, with his rebounding, with his post-ups, shooting the 3, going off the dribble.”

After averaging 35.8 points in his last four games, Randle was held down to 16 on 5-for-16 shooting by the Hornets’ defense. But the Knicks’ All-Star forward added 10 rebounds, seven assists, and two steals.

Reggie Bullock, who hit the overtime-sending triple in their previous win, kept it going with 16 points on five triples. 

Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson combined for 10 points, 19 rebounds, and four blocks as they split the minutes at center.

Derrick Rose and Immanuel Quickley each had 17 points off the bench for the Knicks, who moved five games over .500 (32-27) for the first time this season and to solo fifth in the Eastern Conference.

They can knock the Atlanta Hawks (32-26) from their perch and grab solo fourth if they beat them tomorrow in an all-important matchup.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks News: Don’t discount Julius Randle’s partner in crime

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The New York Knicks executed a dominant performance over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday evening, led by Julius Randle and his 44 points. Randle and his stoic nature have developed into not only a leader but a bonafide star at the NBA level. He’s averaging a career-high 23.6 points, 6.0 assists, 9.3 rebounds over 37.2 minutes. Pairing that with a career-high .410 3-PT percentage, and Randle is having himself one memorable season. It was his first All-Star appearance, and the Knicks would be in no man’s land without him.

However, we would be ignorant to forget his partner in crime, RJ Barrett, who has witnessed an unbelievable step forward and his progression this year. Averaging 17.3 points, 3.0 assists, and 5.7 total rebounds, those statistics barely scratch the surface of his impact. Not only is he a quality defender who plays aggressive basketball, but he’s also averaging .448 from the field and .381 from beyond the arc, a .061 increase compared to his 2020 numbers.

With RJ, the Knicks would be struggling:

Barrett is the Robin to Randle’s Batman, executing at a high level and representing an efficient scorer on open threes, which Julius manages to curate frequently. In the victory over Dallas, Randle posted seven assists, as Barrett hit on 50% of his three-point attempts and logged 24 points. They combined for 68 points, 18 rebounds, and nine assists, showcasing how well they are playing together.

Randle has one more year left on his deal, at $19.8 million, and the Knicks would be foolish to even consider letting him go ($4 million in dead money). Barrett, on the other hand, is only in his second year at 20 years old and has not only matured physically, but his basketball IQ has seen astronomical leaps.

This should be incredibly exciting for Knick fans who’ve been waiting for a star player to establish himself at MSG. Randle is doing just that, and Barrett is refining his abilities to fit Randle’s style of play perfectly, and if the Knicks can add a high-quality point guard to spread the ball around and score efficiently without rotating, they will be in great shape moving forward.

Currently, the Knicks have Derrick Rose, Elfrid Payton, and even Alec Berks rotating at point guard, but having one star would be a major step in the right direction. It is nice to see the Knicks taking positive steps forward in their growth, and it starts with mentality and coaching, which is something that time Thibodeau hit on after the win on Friday.

“I think we have a belief that we can win, and that’s probably the most important thing. It started that way in the beginning. It doesn’t really matter what outside people think. It’s what we think.”

Randle’s summer comes to the fore after his 44 lifts Knicks to 5th straight win

Returning to the place where the seed of his transformational season was planted, Julius Randle’s game sprouted like a tall bamboo.

His seventh season is turning out to be his best one yet, but it also had its shares of lows, including a 25-percent shooting nightmare in a loss to his hometown team Dallas at the beginning of the month.

Randle bent but didn’t break. Just like bamboo.

On Friday night, Randle’s most important summer came to the fore as he scored a season-high-tying 44 points to carry the New York Knicks to a 117-109 win over the Mavericks.

“He prepared himself for this. You can’t overlook that,” Tom Thibodeau said of Randle’s performance. “I knew when I saw him the first time in the summer—the type of shape that he was in. I’ve had a number of players throughout my career that prepared themselves extremely well in the offseason so they can handle the workload they’re gonna have.”

After a disappointing first season with the Knicks, Randle went home to Dallas last summer, determined to erase that stigma, and paced himself to become a true alpha.

He trained thrice a day. Like he never did before.

The result was a breakthrough All-Star season leading a surging Knicks team that keeps on surprising.

The Friday night shocker was the fifth straight victory for the Knicks that represented their longest winning streak since an eight-game run in 2014. More importantly, the win pushed them three games above .500 (30-27) and just half-game from climbing up to fourth seed in the East currently held by both Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks (30-26).

Randle was determined from the start, hitting his first four shots, including going 3-for-3 from the 3-point line.

He outplayed Luka Doncic, a generational talent and the new face of his hometown team, and Kristaps Porzingis, the former Knicks’ franchise player reduced to just a role-playing skilled big man.

Through three quarters, Randle already had 35, and the Knicks led by four, 83-79.

“I was locked in and focused,” said Randle, who has scored at least 30 points in his last three games. “I always love playing at home in front of my friends, in front of my family. I never take those moments for granted.”

Randle has now scored at least 20 points in his last six games against his hometown team.

But it wasn’t just an all-Randle show for the Knicks.

RJ Barrett took over at the start of the fourth quarter. After a pair of duds, Barrett returned to form, scoring 13 of his 24 points in that pivotal quarter.

With Randle, Doncic and Porzingis all taking a breather, Barrett took advantage and scored eight straight points as the Knicks built a nine-point lead, 91-82.

Frank Ntilikina, who played spot-up minutes with Alec Burks out due to the health and safety protocols, hit a three-pointer that extended the Knicks lead to a dozen, 94-82.

“We were trying to match up, taking Julius out when they took out Doncic. We felt we needed another scorer out there. That group got on a run, RJ got on a run. We went with it. I thought Frank gave us good minutes. We needed another defender out there, and I thought that was important,” Thibodeau explained.

Derrick Rose also played a significant role leading the Knicks bench with 15 points and five assists.

The Mavericks came charging back and cut the lead into half, 101-95, on a Doncic layup with 4:27 left.

Then Randle finished what he started, scoring his last nine points the rest of the way.

Randle went 16-for-29 from the floor in 41 minutes and added 10 rebounds and seven assists to become the first Knicks player since Bernard King in 1985 to have at least 40 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists in a single game.

Randle also became the first Knicks player since Carmelo Anthony in 2013-14 to have multiple 40-point games in a single season.

Porzingis led the Mavericks with 23 points and 12 rebounds but was only 8-for-20 from the field. Nerlens Noel returned from a one-game absence due to a sore ankle and did a good job defensively against Porzingis.

Noel pulled down 10 rebounds and swatted away three blocks, and scored six points for good measure.

The Knicks defense also reduced Doncic to a playmaker instead of his usual go-to-scorer role. He tied his career-high 19 assists but bled for 22 points on 16 shots.

Randle was the brightest star in Dallas this Friday night.

He was a man on a mission, leading the hottest team in the NBA. Before this 44-point explosion, he haunted his former teams—LA Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans—with 34 and 32 points, respectively.

The Knicks will meet the Pelicans again on Sunday at The Garden.

For sure, Zion Williamson and the Pelicans will try to break Randle.

They could bend him but cannot break him. And every time he bends, it’s just a matter of time before he springs back like bamboo.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo