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Julius Randle shines late as Knicks beat Pacers to extend streak

INDIANAPOLIS — Back-to-back possessions Tyrese Haliburton had Julius Randle on an island, and back-to-back times Randle locked down the emerging star. 

First, he forced an errant pass, and then a desperation corner 3-point attempt, and the Knicks escaped Gainbridge Fieldhouse with the NBA’s longest win streak intact. The Knicks rallied from a six-point deficit in the final 1:56, pushing their win streak to seven with a pulsating 109-106 victory over the improved Pacers on Sunday night. 

Randle provided the winning margin with six clutch free throws in the final 45.6 seconds as the Knicks moved to 17-13 on the season, a season-high four games over .500. Jalen Brunson led the Knicks with 30 points, Randle added 25 points and 14 rebounds, and RJ Barrett had 24. Buddy Hield and Aaron Nesmith each scored 23 for the Pacers (15-16). 

Julius Randle scores during the Knicks' win over the Pacers.
Julius Randle scores during the Knicks’ win over the Pacers.

The Pacers built a six-point lead with 5:19 left, their biggest edge since early in the first quarter, after a Nesmith slam. Indiana had multiple opportunities over the next few minutes to put the Knicks away, but couldn’t capitalize. Myles Turner missed four consecutive free throws, and the Knicks got within one on a Quentin Grimes 3-pointer with 3:03 to go. 

The Pacers pushed the lead back to six with 1:56 to go on a Nesmith dunk, and Brunson responded with a 3-pointer and a steal and layup, before Randle gave the Knicks the lead with two free throws and 45.6 seconds left. 

The Knicks started like they were stuck in mud, trailing by seven out of the gate. Their defense was slow to stop the ball and the offense was sluggish. It didn’t last. They ripped off runs of 12-2 and 15-3 and led by as many as nine in an entertaining, up-and-down first half. The Pacers played better down the stretch of the second quarter — powered by a 16-4 run that was aided by some iffy Knicks shot selection and eight points by impressive Pacers rookie Ben Mathurin. 

Jalen Brunson shoots during the Knicks' win over the Pacers.
Jalen Brunson shoots during the Knicks’ win over the Pacers.

Still, the Knicks took a one-point lead into the break after Randle’s ferocious transition slam over two defenders. It was one of many emphatic slams in the first 24 minutes by the Knicks. Mitchell Robinson and Barrett also had ferocious dunks as the Knicks piled up 30 points in the paint. Barrett, despite missing all four of his 3-point attempts, played well otherwise, notching a game-high 16 points and plus-seven rating in the first half. Robinson was a two-way force with six points (all on dunks), eight rebounds and four blocks, and Randle had 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists in an all-around strong start. 

The 3-pointer, in particular when Hield was taking it, hurt the Knicks in the third quarter. The Pacers shot 7 of 16 from distance in the period, with Hield making three of them, and built a six-point lead on the strength of it at one point. At the other end of the floor, the Knicks were very aggressive, and in the bonus early. They took advantage, getting to the free-throw lines 13 time and hitting 11 of them in the stanza. It left them a point down with 12 minutes to go.

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