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Knicks’ Julius Randle trying to keep up rhythm after ‘monster month’

Julius Randle enjoyed a “monster month” for the Knicks, in Tom Thibodeau’s estimation.

The power forward averaged 28.3 points and 37.1 minutes in 15 December games, with the Knicks’ 9-6 record for the month featuring the highs of an eight-game winning streak and the lows of a five-game losing skid that was halted with Saturday’s win in Houston.

“Just locked-in, focused. Whatever my team needs to get it done,” Randle said after scoring 35 against the Rockets, his third time in four games with at least that many points. “Really just reading the defense, letting the game decide what I should and shouldn’t do, and just being patient out there.

“I’m in a pretty good rhythm,” he added, “but just trying to play the game the right way.”

For December, Randle shot 47.8 percent from the floor and 36.8 percent from 3-point range and averaged 11.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists to raise his overall numbers for the season to 24.1 points, 9.7 boards and 3.8 dimes. He also averaged 24.1 points in 2020-21 when he was named to his first career All-Star team and won the league’s Most Improved Player award.

Julius Randle #30 of the New York Knicks reacts after making a basket against the Dallas Mavericks in the first half at American Airlines Center on December 27, 2022 in Dallas, Texas.
Julius Randle is preparing to maintain his All-Star level form in January.
Tim Heitman/Getty Images

“Yeah, he’s just had a monster month,” Thibodeau said. “We’re asking him to do a lot, too. He’s scoring, he’s passing, he’s rebounding. He’s playing big minutes, he’s handled it all.”

Randle, who said earlier on the trip that he’s focused more on the Knicks than on making the All-Star team again, also got to the free-throw line often against the Rockets, hitting 12 of 16, to go along with 12 rebounds and six assists with Jalen Brunson (hip) and RJ Barrett (lacerated finger) still sidelined.

“Julius was terrific,” Thibodeau added. “He got us to the bonus early, and we ended up getting a lot of free throws which allowed us to set our defense, too. So that was important. But I also thought he made a lot of good plays that got us into rhythm, got our team into rhythm.”

“He made a lot of good plays. When the double [teams] came, he was very unselfish.”

Brunson is questionable and Barrett remains out for the Knicks’ home game Monday against Phoenix. All-Star guard Devin Booker (groin) and forward Cameron Johnson (knee) are out for the Suns.

Obi Toppin (fractured fibula) said he’s “feeling good” and “doing more,” but the Knicks still have not given a timeframe for his return.

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