Knicks’ Julius Randle bounces back from slow start

It took him more than six quarters to rediscover the mojo that carried him to the league’s Most Improved Player award — and the Knicks to the playoffs — but Julius Randle made his mark in the second half of Wednesday’s series-tying 101-92 win over the Hawks at the Garden.

Randle followed up his 6-for-23 shooting skid in Game 1 by not scoring a field goal in the first half of Game 2, but he netted 13 of his 15 points in the final two quarters to help the Knicks earn a split before heading to Atlanta.

“Listen, Julius is terrific. His rebounding has been great. I thought as the game went on he started to see things better and as is the case with Julius, each game he’ll get better,” Tom Thibodeau said. “He’s seen all these defenses before. Just be patient, keep moving, make the right plays, make the right reads, creates good offense for us. He’s commanding a lot of attention which is opening up other things for us.”

Julius Randle goes up for a shot during the Knicks' 101-92 Game 2 win over the Hawks.
Julius Randle goes up for a shot during the Knicks’ 101-92 Game 2 win over the Hawks.
NBAE via Getty Images

The first-time All-Star acknowledged on TNT on Tuesday night that his adrenaline was “crazy” but his “energy crashed” in the second half of Game 1, calling his struggles in his postseason debut “a learning experience.” He also had vowed one day earlier to “come out better” in Game 2.

Still, Randle missed his first six field-goal attempts on Wednesday, and his only points in the first half were two free throws with 4:13 remaining in the second quarter.

Fourteen seconds into the second half, however, Randle knocked down a 3-pointer from the left side, drawing an eruption from the Garden crowd.

“I just tried to make adjustments, tried to get in the paint. … I feel like I figured it out a little bit, but I still got to be a lot better,” Randle said. “Obviously throughout the game there’s gonna be frustrations, but who we are as a team, we’re never gonna doubt whether we can win a game or not.”

Randle added another 3 later in the third quarter, and he finished with 15 points on 5-for-16 shooting overall with 12 rebounds and four assists.

“There’s a great will and determination to him,” Thibodeau said. “Julius hit that shot and he kept coming. He’s got a great will and determination. Obviously, we were disappointed in the way he played in the first half, but he’s a fighter. The first five minutes [of the second half] he came out with energy and we got going.”

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