Julius Randle stays hot, scores 33 as Knicks top Hornets 121-102

New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett, left, drives for a dunk against Charlotte Hornets center Mason Plumlee during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, Dec. 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Julius Randle scored 33 points, RJ Barrett added 26 and the New York Knicks beat the Charlotte Hornets 121-102 on Friday night for their third straight victory.

Jalen Brunson had 11 points and 11 assists for the Knicks, who evened their record at 13-13.

“I’m just being aggressive and taking what the defense is giving me,” said Randle, who has five 30-point games this season. “And, I’m playing with confidence.”

Said Barrett: “He’s cooking. We need him to keep doing that.”

Randle was more excited that seven Knicks players finished in double digits in scoring.

“It’s a lot of fun and everybody is in a rhythm,” Randle said. “The energy is contagious.”

Rhythm was the word Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau used to describe Randle’s play the last two games.

“He had a play that he was behind the play, beat everyone down the floor, pulled everyone in, and we ended up getting a 3 on it. And there’s no stat for that other than it helps you create rhythm for your team,” Thibodeau said. “And he’s made several plays like that when he’s getting double-teams, getting off the ball, moving without the ball, he’s screening off the ball. He’s playing a great all-around game. I think that helps set the tone for the team.”

Randle hurt the Hornets in every way imaginable on offense, scoring on four 3-pointers, mid-range jumpers and drives, while making 11 of 14 free throws.

Coming off a 34-point, 17-rebound performance in New York’s 113-89 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night, Randle scored 19 points in the first half as the Knicks built a 55-49 halftime lead.

New York closed the third quarter on an 18-5 run behind 10 points from Barrett to build an 89-71 lead. New York pushed the lead to 26 early in the fourth quarter after a 3-pointer by Randle, sending a good portion of the Hornets fans to the exits.

“I thought we played very unselfishly,” Thibodeau said.

Terry Rozier scored 24 points and Kelly Oubre Jr. added 22 on his 27th birthday, the seventh straight game both players have scored at least 20 points in a game for the short-handed Hornets, who currently lack scoring options.

Charlotte (7-19) was 6 of 26 from beyond the 3-point arc.

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The Knicks dominated the offensive glass, scoring 28 second-chance points on 16 offensive rebounds to send the Hornets to their fourth straight loss. The lack of defensive rebounding has been an issue for the Hornets all season.

“They tattooed us on the glass,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “How many rebounds you’re going to get speaks to the number of shots, too. … We were a minus-10 in second-chance points, and it’s crushing. I don’t know what to do about that one, to be honest with you. It’s the same thing. We’ve got to hit, we’ve got to have everybody in there. We’ve got to find a way to get more rebounds.”


Barrett said defense has been the difference in the Knicks’ three-game win streak.

“Every game the other team has been having a low-scoring game and that has been helping us a lot,” Barrett said.


Knicks: Derrick Rose and Cam Reddish did not play for the third straight game due to a coach’s decision. … Improved to 7-6 on the road.

Hornets: LaMelo Ball (ankle), Gordon Hayward (shoulder), Cody Martin (knee), Dennis Smith Jr. (ankle) and Mark Williams (ankle) remained out. … Were whistled for three moving screens in the first half.


Knicks: Host Sacramento on Sunday night.

Hornets: At Philadelphia on Sunday night.