The Knicks got a little of the old Julius Randle back for one afternoon and a lot of the new-and-improved RJ Barrett.
The maligned Randle set the tone with a strong first quarter and RJ Barrett carried the Knicks the rest of the way in a 110-102 Sunday matinee victory over the undermanned Clippers at the Garden to break a three-game losing streak.
Barrett finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, and Randle added 24 points and five assists while hearing no boos.
The Knicks (23-24) ended a stretch of 8-of-10 games at home, finishing 6-4. Now they head out for a rough three-game road trip starting Monday in Cleveland and finishing out in Miami and Milwaukee.
So they needed this one after Thursday’s boo-filled stinker against the Pelicans. The Knicks rested point guard Kemba Walker during this back-to-back scenario and started Alec Burks at point guard — and that lineup flourished.
Newcomer Cam Reddish made his Knicks debut, but played just 5:23, scoring two points with two rebounds, going 1-for-2 from the field.
“What I liked about today was just [being] very efficient and getting to my spots on the floor and making quick decisions, making the easy decision,” Randle said.
Randle made his first remarks since Jan. 11 — a long media boycott that got the Knicks fined $25,000 after he didn’t come to the interview room for a seventh straight postgame Thursday.
Asked why he hasn’t been coming, Randle said tersely, “Just the team didn’t make me available.”
When asked about the $25,000 fine levied against the franchise, Randle complimented Knicks owner James Dolan, who obviously is taking the bullets for his star player.
“Honestly I appreciate Mr. Dolan,” Randle said. “He’s great. But the reaction was the team didn’t make me available. All I can do is my job as a player and the team didn’t make me available. And that’s it.”
The day’s only loss was to surging center Mitchell Robinson just as backup Nerlens Noel made his return.
Early in the third quarter, Robinson stepped on Luke Kennard’s foot going for a rebound and hopped around the court. The Knicks finally stopped the clock and Robinson limped to the locker room. The Knicks announced he had a sprained left ankle and was out.
The Knicks jumped on the Clippers from the get-go with Randle, Evan Fournier and Barrett hitting consecutive 3-pointers. Then Randle pumped one in from the free-throw line and the Knicks were up 11-2.
The Clippers (23-25) are not only missing Kawhi Leonard for the season but Paul George has been out with a thumb injury.
The red-hot Barrett was terrific again from inside and outside, making 3 of 5 from 3-point land and all seven of his free throws. He punctuated his day by taking an Immanuel Quickley bounce pass on a fast-break and roaring in for a high-flying lefty dunk.
The Knicks led 39-31 after one with Randle putting together a potent period, distributing and shooting well.
Randle collected 10 first-quarter points (4 of 7 overall, 2 of 3 on 3-pointers). He also dished out three assists. One notable sequence occurred when he whipped a perfect feed for Robinson underneath. Robinson missed the easy dunk and Randle grabbed the offensive rebound to drilled a step-back 3.
Reddish entered with six seconds left in the first quarter, replacing Barrett, and hearing huge roar from the fans.
Early in the second quarter, Reddish, obtained 10 days ago, let his presence known, grabbing a rebound and going coast to coast, finishing with a reverse layup.
Those were the only points he scored in a five-minute stint as he missed a 3-point attempt and didn’t play the second half.