HOUSTON (AP) – Julius Randle scored 31 points in three quarters to lead the New York Knicks to a 122-97 victory over the Houston Rockets Sunday night.
Randle, who had seven rebounds and six assists, scored 15 points in the third quarter to pad the lead and spent the fourth quarter on the bench with the game out of reach.
It was the 11th victory in 12 games for the Knicks and the seventh in eight games for the Rockets, who have the NBA’s worst record at 16-49. New York also beat Houston in the first meeting this season on Feb. 13 to win the series for the first time since 2002-03. It’s just the second win for the Knicks in Houston in 16 trips, with the last one coming on Nov. 21, 2015.
Randle continued his recent stellar play by scoring at least 30 points for the fourth time in five games. It’s the 13th time this season that he’s finished with 30 points or more.
The Rockets scored five straight points, punctuated with a dunk by Christian Wood, to cut the lead to 73-64 with about 5 minutes left in the third quarter.
But Randle made an off-balance layup a few seconds later before making consecutive 3-pointers to extend New York’s lead to 81-64 with 4 minutes left in the quarter.
After his second 3 in that span, a small but vocal group of Knicks fans began chanting: ‘MVP, MVP.’
Jae’Sean Tate ended the run with a layup for the Rockets, but New York scored the following seven points, with 3s from Reggie Bullock and Derrick Rose to make it 88-66 with about 2 minutes left in the third.
The Knicks had a 20-point lead about a minute later when Randle got going again, scoring five quick points to push the information to 93-68. Wood had 19 points and eight rebounds for the Rockets, who struggled from long-range, making just 8 of 35 3-pointers. New York was up by 28 in the fourth quarter before using a 7-0 run to make it 117-82 with about 5 1/2 minutes remaining, and all the starters for the Knicks went to the bench soon after that.