The Knicks won a game over a solid, hot team, and Julius Randle won back some fans.
It was a near perfect Garden night, as the Knicks began the second half of their 82-game schedule with a 108-85 rout over the Kristaps Porzingis-less Mavericks. Dallas’ five-game winning streak was snapped, and the Knicks moved back to the .500 mark at 21-21 for the first time since Dec. 7.
“I don’t look at that — I look at it as are we playing good basketball,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I hope we’re not satisfied with that. There’s a long ways to go, and we got to keep fighting.’’
Two days after a timid, two-point clunker when he was harassed by the home crowd, Randle looked more like himself in roaring to the basket and finishing with 17 points in 35 minutes.
It was hardly perfect, as Randle shot 6 of 17 from the field — 1 of 3 from 3-point land — and grabbed 10 rebounds with eight assists.
RJ Barrett was the bigger star, adding 32 points for a second straight game — the youngest player in Knicks history to string back-to-back 30 spots. Barrett was 13 of 22 from the field — 4 of 7 from beyond the arc.
But best yet, all five Knicks starters hit double figures — something they hadn’t done since opening night.
“I thought our starters were fantastic,’’ Thibodeau said. “That may be the best game of the year for our starters. They really played hard and played well. Just their aggressiveness attacking the basket, downhill, moving the ball and making the extra pass.’’
The starting unit had been an eyesore for much of the first part of the season.
“It was our best win in a while,’’ Evan Fournier said. “We had purpose, and it was really enjoyable to play.’’
Randle was not made available for comment after the game. Thibodeau said he had talked to Randle regarding the fan controversy but admitted he didn’t really have to.
“You constantly talk to Julius, and you talk to the team every day,’’ Thibodeau said. “But Julius is a pro. He’s navigated the ups and downs of this league for a long time. So he knows where he stands in the league, and he knows what he has to do.’’
Barrett punctuated another big night with a two-handed reverse dunk in the fourth quarter that followed his windmill dunk from the game before.
Randle, who gave the Knicks fans a thumbs-down gesture last Thursday, was all business and failed to acknowledge the crowd’s cheers Wednesday. The fans chanted Barrett’s name on multiple occasions.
“For sure he was aggressive,’’ Barrett said of Randle. “He’s such a big guy you want to get him downhill into the paint. It was great to see him out there.”
Starters Evan Fournier (13 points), Alec Burks (10 points), Mitchell Robinson (19 points, 9 of 10 from the field, nine rebounds) were all in double figures. Four of the five were in double figures by intermission.
“Five guys in double figures, it’s a great way to win,’’ Barrett said.
Missing long on his first attempt — a 3-pointer — Randle then got rolling. He scored on three straight possessions — two powerful drives and a 3-pointer.
Though he heard scattered boos during pregame intros, he got only cheered as the shots dropped and he played his normal aggressive way, instead of dropping the ball off to a teammate at the perimeter like he did Monday against San Antonio.
But Barrett was the true star and has looked unstoppable for more than a week, with his forays to the basket and improved jumper.
“When he scores at all three levels, he’s less predictable,” Fournier said. “He’s thinking less. He surely looks like he’s not thinking at all and letting his game do his talking.’’
Porzingis, the former Knicks lottery pick whose trade eventually led to Randle’s signing, missed the game with COVID-19. Dallas coach Jason Kidd was also out because of protocols, and the Mavs were led by assistant Sean Sweeney.