Knicks hang on to beat Wizards after nearly losing another lead

WASHINGTON — Julius Randle posted a video of a fun conversation on his TikTok account on Friday in which he asked his 6-year-old son, Kyden, what grade the youngster would give the Knicks a shadow after the midpoint of the regular season.

When Kyden replied that he would give his dad’s team a “C” grade, Randle joked, “Harsh criticism lol, looks like we have some work to do.”

Much of that work has to do with closing double-digit leads, of course, but the Knicks held on for a 112-108 victory over the Wizards at Capital One Arena on Friday night after nearly squandering a lead. 15 points in the fourth quarter.

“I feel like we’ve been playing better lately, but we still have work to do,” said Jalen Brunson. “We need to close games better and we need to find ways to make life easier for each other.”

Brunson scored 34 points with eight assists and eight rebounds, his fourth game of at least 30 in six appearances since returning from a hip injury earlier this month.

Julius Randle dunks in the Knicks' win over the Wizards on Jan. 13.
Julius Randle dunks in the Knicks’ win over the Wizards on Jan. 13.
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Randle contributed 23 points and 16 rebounds as the Knicks won for the ninth time in 11 road games and improved to 13-8 away from the Garden this season, trailing only the Celtics and Nets in wins over the road (14 each).

“I really think it’s defensive,” Randle said. “I don’t know what the numbers were, but our ability to pick up wins and get saves and then execute in the second half and create separation has been good for us.”

Kyle Kuzma finished with 40 points and former Knicks All-Star Kristaps Porzingis was 21 of 6 on 19 shooting for the Wizards (18-25), slightly below his 22.0 point average for the season.

Porzingis missed his first five attempts, but the Knicks started Game 2 for 14 from the field before a 12-0 run left them at 21-19 after the first quarter.

Kuzma scored nine points in the first six minutes of the second quarter as Washington extended its lead to eight, but a late 3-pointer from Brunson drew the Knicks 53-50 at intermission.

Kuzma finished the half with 18 for the Wizards, who have been without leading scorer Bradley Beal (hamstring) in the past four games.

Jalen Brunson shoots in the Knicks' win over the Wizards on January 13.
Jalen Brunson shoots in the Knicks’ win over the Wizards on January 13.
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Immanuel Quickley reacts after scoring 3 points in the Knicks' win over the Wizards on January 13.
Immanuel Quickley reacts after scoring 3 points in the Knicks’ win over the Wizards on January 13.
PA

The Knicks regained the lead on Quentin Grimes’ 3-pointer at 3:12 of the third, and Randle’s posterizing dunk off Washington center Daniel Gafford – with the foul confirmed after review – made it a five-point game in the middle of the period. .

Three-point plays converted by Grimes and Isaiah Hartenstein — with the latter a nifty passing streak from Barrett to Immanuel Quickley in Hartenstein for a base dunk — helping the Knicks hold on to an 80-76 advantage in the final quarter.

When Kyden Randle was asked by his dad earlier where the Knicks needed to improve the most, his one-word answer? “Who passed.”

“I think he would like that one. I really think he would like that one,” Julius Randle said. “I have to ask him tonight.”

RJ Barrett dunks during the second quarter.
RJ Barrett dunks during the second quarter.
USA TODAY Sports

Quickley added 18 points and RJ Barrett finished with 17 for the Knicks, each of them converting a three-point play for a 94-79 lead at 3:30 of the fourth quarter.

Kuzma’s “and-1” play and driving layup sent the Wizards back in the three with 27.0 seconds remaining. Randle missed one of two free throws and then fouled a 3-point attempt by Kuzma, who knocked down two of three for a 108-106 game with 16.6 seconds left.

Brunson coolly sank four free throws in the final 13.3 seconds for the Knicks, who won six of seven after a five-game losing skid for a 24-19 overall record.

“We got a little bit over the top, we had some saves, we went into transition, we got some and-1s and we just found a way,” Brunson said. “We just have to keep fighting. We knew they weren’t going to give up. That lead helped us out a bit and helped us get a big enough lead to put them out in the end.

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