Julius Randle had never scored 44 points. The Knicks star is having the best season of his career in all aspects, defending more than ever thanks to Tom Thibodeau and is an attacking machine because of the same person. Randle has gone from being an uncle cool with many shortcomings to a mature player, who scores easilyHe shoots by three without the irregularity that characterized him, rebounds like nobody else, assists with fluidity and is the leader on the track. It belongs to a team that was adrift and that has raised an undervalued coach, criticized excessively on many occasions but who is proving to be better than many thought (we thought). And it is from a franchise that, at the moment, is in sixth position in the Eastern Conference. (something that seemed unthinkable a year ago), a place with which they would avoid a play-in that nobody wants to play (literally) and for which they would not deserve to pass in the Big Apple, after an absolutely meritorious basketball course, almost the best they have had in the entire 21st century, beyond that 2012-13 that it ended how it ended (with defeat in the Eastern semi-finals after much expectations).
With a game and a half ahead of the Heat (seventh) and two over the Hornets (eighth), the Knicks are closing in on the playoffs. They have to continue adding victories in a season whose calendar is very condensed, which can take you from sixth to eighth with a bad week. But, with just over a month to go to the start of the playoffs, the Knicks are in a privileged position that they will have to defend tooth and nail, pulling off games as unexpectedly as they deserve, just as they did this morning against the Mavericks and in Dallas. And they have, by the way, only half a game to Celtics (fifth) and Hawks (fourth), the two fetish positions which everyone wants to reach. Above all, because entering the top-5 leads to an easier opponent in the first round, thus avoiding the magic trident that leads the East: Sixers, Nets and Bucks. Three teams that have been slightly superior to the rest and that it is better not to face in the first round … mainly, to be able to go to the second.
Against the Mavericks, Randle had 44 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists, with 16 of 29 shooting from the field, 6 of 11 on triples and 6 of 9 on free throws. The star, a true all-rounder that does what it wants and is the epicenter of the Thibodeau system, He has scored 9 points in the last quarter, where he has yielded the prominence to an RJ Barret who has reached 13, for 24 total. Besides them, only Reggie Bullock (11) and Derrick Rose (15, eternal youth), have exceeded ten. Bullock and Randle, by the way, have exceeded 40 minutes, while Barret has reached 46, another outrage from friend Thibodeau, who continues with his things and his hobbies with unexpected success, but also unequivocal. The game has been even at all times, with 12 changes of leadership and 10 draws, but it has been resolved in a last quarter in which the Knicks have come in front and they have withstood the onslaught of a rival who has not been able to win a duel that takes them away from sixth place with which they would avoid the play-in. That one that, well, they do have the Knicks.
On the Mavericks, Luka Doncic’s effort was insufficient. He went to 22 points, 8 rebounds and 19 assists, the record of his career, matching those he achieved in the Orlando bubble on August 8, in a victory against the Bucks. The Slovenian’s numbers that day were from a video game (36 + 14 + 19) but this time they have been lower and, furthermore, without the prize of victory. Kristaps Porzingis had 23 points and 12 rebounds and the Mavs had a bit of Finney-Smith (13), Richardson (14) and Hardaway (16), but they missed 8 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and lost the battle for the rebound (45 for 41), the one for which Thibodeau fights with some success in every game. The Mavs are diluted in a difficult year and have very difficult to avoid the play-in, but not so much to reach the playoffs if they do things well. For now They have to suffer and continue rowing, unable to rest because of the situation and with their sights set on entering that final phase that they would play for the second consecutive season. An award to tie up the project and look to the future, that they will have to fight until the last breath. In the NBA, nothing is easy. As much as Julius Randle tries to make us believe otherwise.
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