Knicks return to .500 after comeback against the Pacers

Julius Randle scored a game high 28 points and 10 rebounds, outplaying Domantas Sabonis – his main counterpart in the All Star race – and leading the New York Knicks back at .500, finally, in a thriller 110-107 W at the Garden against the Indiana Pacers.

The two power forwards competed against each other just like back in the 90s and in the end Randle got the best of Sabonis.

“Sometimes there are just individual matchups that you take — not personal or nothing, like you don’t like the other guy, just personal from a competitive standpoint. So it was that. It was the series matchup as a team. And us feeling like we really needed to win this game with how tight the playoff race is, feeling like we really needed to win this game. From that standpoint. Protecting home court. It’s a lot of different things.”

Julius Randle

The Pacers were the team that had the better start, building a 16 point lead in the second quarter. The reply was fast, clear and with multiple weapons on both ends of the floor but especially on the defense that led to a 24-6 run for New York. But the cherry on the top was delivered by Derrick Rose‘s 29-foot three pointer at the buzzer that gave the Knicks a 54-52 lead at halftime.

In the second half things got dramatic as both teams tried to take a decisive lead but none of them succeeding in annihilating the other. In spite of Randle’s 20 point half, the Knicks couldn’t hold on to a fragile 9 point advantage early in the fourth and eventually the game was decided by a key moment from Frank Ntilikina.

With just 4.7 on the clock and the Knicks up by 2, the french guard intercepted a bad pass by Sabonis and was quickly sent to the foul line where he made both throws to put his team up 110-106.

The Pacers had less than 3 seconds to come up with 4 points and force overtime but with Reggie Miller unavailable for this game they were able to only come up with 1, from the free throw line.

RJ Barrett had 24 points and shot 4-6 from long range while Rose, in his second start since the trade had 17 points in 38 minutes.

Nerlens Noel logged a season high 41 minutes after Taj Gibson had sprained his left ankle, just 4 minutes into the game. Noel, the only true center on the roster had 8 points and 7 boards but the impact on the defense cannot be seen in his stat sheets.

“Just his activity, making them miss at the rim, being on the floor, coming up with big plays for us, and then when he’s rolling to the rim, hess putting a lot of pressure on the rim, which is opening up a lot of other things for us. Hess a totally selfless guy, plays hard, and whatever you ask him to do, he does.”

Tom Thibodeau

Immanuel Quickley led the second unit with 10 points off the bench while Ntilikina and Alec Burks had 5 buckets each.

The Pacers were led by former Knick, Doug McDermott, who scored 20, followed by TJ McConnell’s 17 points and 12 assists and Sabonis’ 15 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds.

The Knicks are back again at .500 after missing several opportunities recently and the upcoming schedule should only keep them above that line at least for a couple of weeks.

Up-next: The Knicks (17-17) are traveling to Detroit to take on the Pistons (9-24) tonight at 8:00 pm.

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