The Knicks arrived in Cleveland with a pack of injured players. But Julius Randle is healthy — boy, is he ever.
In his fourth straight powerful performance, Randle posted a 28-point triple-double. He collected 12 rebounds with his Knicks-high 11 assists as the club won its second straight and took out the previously unbeaten Cavaliers, 95-86, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Tuesday night.
As he kept his rotation to eight men, Tom Thibodeau’s defensive-minded Knicks moved to 2-2 in shaking off 26 turnovers. Randle chased down a loose ball in the left corner and drilled a clinching 3-pointer with 5:40 left, lifting the Knicks into a 10-point lead.
On the next possession, Randle picked up his triple-double when he fed point guard Elfrid Payton for a 3-pointer.
“I think the first part is he came into camp in great shape,” Thibodeau said of Randle after the game. “I saw what type of shape he was in, so I knew he was highly motivated. So I think that’s a big advantage for him. I also think he has a pretty good understanding of his teammates and what they’re strengths are. And he’s playing unselfishly and that’s probably the biggest thing. He’s shooting the ball a lot better also.”
Payton put together his second straight solid outing. He scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter. Payton also had seven assists and eight rebounds after his stunning performance against Milwaukee on Sunday.
Reggie Bullock, who has started all season at shooting guard, banged in five 3-pointers and finished with 17 points. Cleveland, which fell to 3-1, was led by Andre Drummond’s six blocks, 17 rebounds and 18 points.
The Knicks were missing one of their top scorers in Alec Burks — one of five injured players. The game was played before 300 fans.
Randle now has seven career triple-doubles and this was his first as a Knick. In fact, he was close to a quadruple-double as he committed seven turnovers in his 44 minutes.
Randle staged a ridiculous first quarter in leading the Knicks to a 29-15 lead. He made all five of his shots, including two 3-pointers. He wound up with 14 first-quarter points with six rebounds and five assists.
The Knicks were rolling and the Cavaliers struggling. In getting off to a 3-0 start, the Cavaliers were the best 3-point shooting team in the league. Somehow they missed their first 10 3-pointers Tuesday — many wide open.
The Cavaliers turned it around in the second quarter in forcing Knicks turnovers and got within seven, 53-46, at the half. The Knicks committed 15 turnovers after two quarters but still led.
Randle wound up with 18 points, eight rebounds and eight assists by intermission but also got sloppy in the second period and wound up with six turnovers. Bullock banged in four first-half 3-pointers, including one at the halftime buzzer. The Knicks were 10 of 16 at the half from deep.
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