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Julius Randle clutch down the stretch in Knicks’ OT win over Celtics – Boston Herald


BOSTON — Next time Shaquille O’Neal should remember the name: Julius Randle.

At the line, with the game on the line, Randle came through and Jaylen Brown choked.

The result was a thrilling and very unexpected ride at TD Garden for the Knicks, who got 37 points from Randle and a 120-117 overtime victory against the Celtics.

“Experience. I’m in those situations, like I said, before on both ends, where I missed them and I made them, so I’m comfortable,” Randle said.

Randle, who was called ‘Randolph’ before the game by TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal, buried the game-winning clutch free throws with 21 seconds remaining in overtime. Brown, a certain All-Star this season for the Celtics, then missed both his attempts with 7.6 seconds remaining.

If this wasn’t the best victory of the season for the Knicks (27-23), it’s on the medal stand. They’ve won two straight against top Eastern Conference squads (they beat the Cavs on Tuesday).

“We can beat anybody. We can lose to anybody. That’s the league,” Randle said. “It’s super talented. Very balanced league. So, we can see how special we can be on a night-to-night basis if we come in with the right focus.”

Predictably, the Knicks blew a late lead in regulation. They were up by 12 with under five minutes remaining, then inexplicably turned into practice cones on defense while allowing Jayson Tatum to cook.

Tatum torched Randle in the fourth quarter, breezing past the Knicks defender on the perimeter while dropping 11 points in the final seven minutes. Tatum also had a chance to seal the victory in regulation but missed an open jumper before the buzzer to set up overtime.

Then Randle, who finished with 37 points (two more than Tatum), had the final say. He was joined in heroic moments by RJ Barrett, who nailed a go-ahead 3-pointer with 29 seconds left. Jalen Brunson added 29 points in 40 minutes and the final block on Malcolm Brogdon’s potential tying 3-point attempt at the final buzzer.

“Saw the play, reacted,” Brunson said. “Saw we didn’t have a lot of time so put my hand up and got a piece of the ball.”

Still, the pregame broadcast on TNT became a reminder of how the Knicks — and Randle — still need to convince everybody else. They were left off the All-Star starters, which was certainly expected and announced right before tipoff. It only stung more as a contrast to the crosstown rival Nets, the only team with two starters. Then Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal began killing the Knicks in their typical waggish ways. Barkley was confused that the Knicks were involved in rivalry week on the network.

“They haven’t been relevant since Patrick Ewing,” Barkley said.

When O’Neal was reminded Randle wasn’t Randolph, he responded dismissively, ‘Whatever his name is.’

The Celtics led by as many as 15 in the first quarter, but the Knicks retaliated fast, took a lead in the second quarter, and had the deficit at 2 at halftime. Randle was the spark and boosted his All-Star candidacy for when the reserves are picked by the coaches.

“I think for all players, I think the more times you go through it the better you get at everything. And so we’re building some continuity,” Tom Thibodeau said. “I think he’s become more familiar with his teammates, his teammates more familiar with him. Bringing Jalen in I think has really helped. I think the number one responsibility of a point guard is to control and manage the game. And so it’s allowed Julius to play off the ball more and that’s where we can take advantage of all the different things that he can do.”

The Celtics were missing Marcus Smart, who suffered a sprained ankle last week. The Knicks played again without Mitchell Robinson, who is out for another four weeks, according to owner James Dolan, and Evan Fournier, who remained in New York following the birth of his son.

With Robinson out, Jericho Sims again started at center and grabbed 14 rebounds.



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