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Jalen Brunson returns from injury, Julius Randle continues excellent play in win against Suns

What a difference a year makes.

Monday was approaching the first  anniversary of Julius Randle’s infamous thumbs-down gesture at the fans at MSG, the low point of the power forward’s relationship with the home fans.

And nearly a year later, in the midst of another dominant performance from Randle, he was showered with MVP chants from that same Garden crowd. It accompanied a 102-83 blowout victory over the Suns and a 28-point, 16-rebound stat line from Randle.

“It’s good to be on the good side of the Garden,” he said, chuckling. “It’s definitely a lot better feeling to be on that side.”

Randle sarcastically pleaded ignorance when asked about his thumbs-down ‘Shut the fu— up’ message to fans from a year ago — “I don’t even remember that, that happened?” — which feeds into his attitude adjustment this season.

Randle has been much less negative — whether with fans, media or referees — and the further evidence was Monday’s postgame press conference, when he walked to the microphone with a book, ‘Positive Dog,’ a story that underscores the benefits of positivity.

It’s quite a turnaround and redemption story after Randle’s fall from grace last season. He’s even making a case for an All-Star selection, while averaging 32.4 points and 12.9 rebounds in his last seven games.

“You work hard to put yourself in a position to do that. So it would be amazing [to get selected to the All-Star team]. I love it,” said Randle, who made his first and only All-Star appearance in 2021. “Not necessarily for me, it’s great. But I love it to experience it with my family, with both of my sons. My wife. Because they’re the ones who make the true sacrifice of letting me dedicate myself to the game the way I’ve been able to do. Summers and night-in, night out. They’ve been the ones making the true sacrifices so I love to be able to let them enjoy it and see the rewards of it. That’s why it’s important.”

Boosted by Randle’s dominance and Jalen Brunson’s playmaking, the Knicks (20-18) had Monday’s victory sewn up in the second quarter with a 21-0 run and a 31-point advantage. Brunson returned from a three-game absence because of a hip injury and didn’t miss a beat while scoring 24 points with six assists. He outplayed Chris Paul — who managed just 11 — as the Knicks (20-18) outscored the Suns by 20 points in Brunson’s 39 minutes.

“Jalen can play,” Chris Paul said. “He gets to the line a lot. He can play.”

The Suns (20-18), to be fair, are a mess. They’re missing Devin Booker, who sat his fourth straight game with a groin injury. Considered a pseudo contender before the season, they’ve lost 11 of their last 15 games.

Still, the victory was impressive from the Knicks for a couple reasons. No. 1, the sheer dominance: the Knicks were never threatened in the second half. They held the Suns to 11 points in the first quarter, the Knicks’ lowest points allowed for that quarter this season.

No. 2, the history: the Knicks entered with a nine-game losing streak to the Suns spanning five years. They lost by an average of 18 points in their previous four home games against Phoenix.

On Monday, they controlled the Suns and Randle heard the love — a much different reaction than a year prior.

“It’s really cool to see and he’s embracing it,” Brunson said. “But I think most important, what I said before, that man is focused. We’ve got to be focused as well. It’s just, I guarantee while he’s at the free throw line he’s just focused on trying to make the free throw. He’s not hearing anything. But it’s really special to hear. Now we’ve just got to keep stacking wins.”

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Source: Berkshire mont

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