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Julius Randle’s strong night leads Knicks to rout of Kings


A laughing Julius Randle bounded into the interview room late Monday. 

Indeed, the Knicks — and Randle — enjoyed a rare giddy evening at the Garden in a 116-96 laugher over the woebegone Kings. 

After a desultory 0-3 road trip and with trade rumors swirling, they routed Sacramento by sharing the ball, dominating the boards and swishing 3-pointers in a scare-free night to move to 24-27 and snap a three-game slide. 

The maligned Randle looked decisive and confident, scoring 17 points with nine rebounds and four assists, hitting 7 of 14 from the field, scoring in transition and on midrange jumpers. 

The Knicks needed this game and Randle spoke in an upbeat manner that hasn’t been seen since November. He even took the positives of their winless trip to Cleveland, Miami and Milwaukee. 

“It was good — that was a tough road trip [where] we played the defending champions and a team first in the East,’’ Randle said. “It was a good challenge for us and good to observe and see championship habits and caliber teams because that’s what we’re striving for every day. It was good to see that. It motivated us and to get off to a good start on our home court was good.’’ 

Julius Randle goes up for a dunk against the Kings.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Evan Fournier exploded in the first quarter for 16 of his 18 points. Alec Burks came off the bench and flourished with 21. Mitchell Robinson was all over the glass, finishing with nine points and 13 rebounds. And rookie Quentin Grimes also added 14 points and frenetic defense. 

The only drama occurred in the fourth quarter. Would Tom Thibodeau put in recent addition Cam Reddish as the Garden crowd repeatedly chanted his name: “We want Red-dish.’’ 

He did, as the former Dukie hopped off the bench with 5:25 left to roars with the Knicks up 25. He finished with four points, all on free throws. 

“It’s been an up and down year but we’re in the hunt,’’ said Randle amid reports he could be traded by the Feb. 10 deadline. “We’re still trying to build it and hit our stride. Hopefully this works out and at the end of the year after all the things we’ve been through, we’re clicking on all cylinders.’’ 

Knicks
Evan Fournier finished with 18 points.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

The Kings were without their star point guard De’Aaron Fox (sore ankle) and playing the final game of a five-game, 11-day road trip. And they have a 18-34 record. 

The Knicks needed this rout with a murderous six-game gauntlet ahead, starting at home versus Memphis before a hellish five-game western road trip. 

“I thought the defense and the rebounding was a big factor in the game,’’ Tom Thibodeau said. “Evan getting off to that start gave us a cushion and Julius made a bunch of great plays for us, particularly in the third quarter. Mitch was terrific to start the game as well.’’ 

Mitchell Robinson
Mitchell Robinson
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

The Knicks, who out-rebounded the Kings 55-41, stepped on Sacramento in the first quarter. It was one of Fournier’s finest hours as a Knick as his teammates repeatedly found him open at the 3-point line off kickouts and he delivered with perfect strikes. 

The Frenchman made 6 of his 7 field goals in the first quarter — 4 of 5 from 3-point land — as the Knick led 31-23. 

“His teammates searched him out well in kickout situations,’’ Thibodeau said. 

The Knicks ambushed the Kings further in the second period with their second unit to go up by 17. 

Burks hit Obi Toppin for an alley-oop dunk. After Grimes stole the ball, Toppin sprinted with it downcourt and fed it back to Burks, who drilled a 3-pointer to put the Knicks up 45-29. 

Before the game, the Knicks coach said he’d like to see more uptempo play. 

“There were so many good things about the way we played,’’ Thibodeau said. “We got the ball up quickly, playing with more pace. It’s hard to win on the road and we wanted to learn from every situation. And we just want to keep fighting.’’

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