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Julius Randle, Knicks look to stay on track vs. Blazers

Mar 11, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA;  New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) brings the ball up court during the third quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Julius Randle followed up his worst shooting performance of the season with the type of showing that has made him a two-time All-Star.

Randle looks to post his fifth 30-point effort in 11 games since the All-Star break when the New York Knicks visit the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.

Randle scored 33 points on Sunday night when the Knicks snapped a three-game losing streak with a 112-108 victory over the host Los Angeles Lakers.

One day earlier in the same arena, Randle was just 5-of-24 shooting for a season-low 20.8 percent success rate from the field during a 106-95 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

“I work on my craft,” Randle said after Sunday’s victory. “I know what I put into my craft so I’m not going to second-guess myself just because I had a bad game. Come back the next game and be better.”

Randle matched his career best of 46 points and also had a 43-point effort during New York’s recent season-long nine-game winning streak.

But during the ensuing three-game skid, Randle made just 18 of 63 shots (28.6 percent) before making 11 of 24 against the Lakers and also contributing eight rebounds and five assists.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau wasn’t concerned but was glad his best player was back in form.

“Someone can miss shots. That’s part of the game. Don’t let it take away from anything else,” Thibodeau said. “Hey, look, we’re all human. Anyone can have a bad day. If you have a bad day, the next day you got to bounce back and have a great day. I thought he did that and I thought it was great.”

RJ Barrett also excelled Sunday with 30 points. He has scored 25 or more points in four of the past five games.

Randle and Barrett will be called on to deliver again Tuesday as Thibodeau indicated that standout point guard Jalen Brunson (foot) will likely be out for the fifth time in six games.

Portland has its own injury concerns as All-Star guard Damian Lillard (calf tightness) sat out Sunday’s 127-110 road loss against the New Orleans Pelicans. Lillard has scored at least 20 points in his last 28 appearances, topped by a career-best 71 against the Houston Rockets on Feb. 26.

Lillard’s absence came as the Trail Blazers trailed by as many as 39 points while losing their third straight game and eighth in the past 11 games. Portland is 5-9 without Lillard this season.

The Trail Blazers went 2-4 on the six-game road trip that ended in New Orleans, but play eight of their next nine games at home.

With Portland sitting 13th in the Western Conference and two games behind the final play-in position entering Monday, coach Chauncey Billups is looking for his squad to step it up.

“We’ve just got to be better about having urgency. We don’t have enough urgency,” Billups said. “Obviously I’ve got to be better about teaching it and coaching it but we just haven’t had enough urgency. But as I’ve also said, like in the Western Conference, every single night things kind of change, but we can’t be looking for help.

“We’ve got to be a willing participant in our own rescue, so we’ve got to play better basketball and give ourselves a chance.”

The Trail Blazers outscored New Orleans 37-18 in the final quarter to make the score look less one-sided.

“I feel like we didn’t get out to the start we needed and we were just putting a lot of pressure on the bench,” Portland reserve Nassir Little said. “It’s tough trying to overcome that type of deficit and then maintain that through the course of the game.”

Jerami Grant scored a career-high 44 points and Anfernee Simons added 38 as the Trail Blazers posted a 132-129 overtime win over the host Knicks on Nov. 25.

–Field Level Media

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