At this point, big-time Julius Randle performances are becoming more of the norm than anything.
Tuesday night was no different as the Knicks star dropped 37 points while shooting 7-of-10 with six rebounds in a 131-113 victory over the Washington Wizards.
Randle’s 70% night from beyond the arc was just the latest example of his improved three-point shooting prowess, including a streak of three-in-a-row in the third quarter.
“I did have a heat check,” Randle said of his hot hand in the third. “I was going to pull up from half[court], that’s how good I was feeling.”
He’s now shooting 42.8% from three-point range this season compared to 27.7% last year, a nod to all the work he put in during the offseason to catapult himself to an All-Star-caliber player in 2021.
“I’m not surprised,” he said of his improvement. “I’m just confident because I put the work in trying to improve as a shooter.”
“I think his whole game, he’s in great shape. You start there,” Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Adding the three-point shot, he already had all the other stuff — off the dribble, the post-up. Adding that three really changed things not just for him, but our team.
“Having the stretch four is a necessity in this game… When you add in the playmaking, he’s doing a terrific job in that so we can throw him in a lot of different ways… those are the toughest players to stop.”
Randle’s drastic improvements aren’t necessarily seen often around the NBA, especially for a player now in his seventh professional season.
“Guys are diligent, but they improve one level,” Thibodeau said. “So you can go from maybe a below-average to average, or average to above-average. I don’t know if you can become great or borderline [great shooter]. But as you see, the way the ball was coming off his hand was a lot different. The spin on the ball, the arc, and his confidence.”
Thibodeau points to the Knicks not making the NBA’s postseason bubble upon its return from COVID-19 last summer as one of the main reasons why Randle was able to get on this track to stardom.
“That confidence has come from the one great benefit of what happened with not being in the bubble. He spent a lot of time individually in the gym and he did,” Thibodeau said. “He made maximum use of his time and that’s where he really grooved his shot. He continues to put a lot of work in.
“It’s a great example for our young guys. You talk about a guy who has been in the league for a while who continues to improve and that’s what you want all your guys to do.”