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Julius Randle, Knicks end 2022 on positive note in win over Rockets

The Knicks entered 2023 with a positive.

Behind Julius Randle’s continued surge, the Knicks snapped a five-game losing streak and outlasted the rebuilding Rockets on New Year’s Eve, 108-88.

Without injured duo Jalen Brunson and RJ Barrett, New York again leaned on Randle, who answered the call with 35 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. In his final six games of 2022, Randle averaged 33.2 points and is suddenly in the All-Star conversation.

His field-goal percentage wasn’t impressive Saturday while missing 11 of his 20 field goals, but he nailed five treys and 12 foul shots.

The Knicks (19-18) are over .500 entering the New Year for the first time since 2013. They finished 1-2 on their Texas road trip, and now play four of their next five at MSG (although that’s not necessarily a good thing since they’re better on the road).

The Rockets, meanwhile, are young and bad, a status they’ve accepted since James Harden forced his way out in 2020. They have the No. 2 and No. 3 overall picks from the last two drafts in the lineup — Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr. — and remain fully immersed in the race to the bottom for next year’s prized draft prospect, Victor Wembanyama. The Rockets failed to win more than 20 games the last two seasons and now own the Western Conference’s worst record at 10-26.

On Saturday, Houston scored just 50 points (38 in the first) over the final three quarters and finished with 24 turnovers — 10 more than the Knicks. As a result of Houston’s sloppiness, New York won in a blowout despite shooting just 39 percent.

It was the second straight game without Brunson (hip injury) and Barrett (lacerated finger), which again led to heavy minutes for Quentin Grimes, Miles McBride and Immanuel Quickley.

How did they respond? Quickley picked up the scoring slack with 27 points. Grimes, a Houston product who was coming off a dud in San Antonio, scored 17 points.  McBride struggled offensively but helped guard the perimeter in the final three quarters.

Despite Saturday’s result, it was a painful 2022 and an especially long December. The Knicks emerged as the NBA’s hottest team mid-month with an eight-game winning streak, then they became the NBA’s coldest squad with a five-game losing streak.

Now they have a winning streak to take into the New Year.

They were lazy on defense in the first quarter Saturday — which was the main symptom of Thursday’s defeat in San Antonio — but recovered quickly and took advantage of Houston missing shots. They led at halftime, 53-49, and by double-digits in the third quarter.

The Rockets never recovered.

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Source: Berkshire mont

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