WASHINGTON (AP) — Julius Randle answered Kristaps Porzingis’ early flurry, and by the time the New York standout was done, he’d matched his career high in scoring.
Randle also led the Knicks to an impressive comeback victory.
Randle finished with 46 points, and New York rallied from a 19-point deficit to beat the Washington Wizards 115-109 on Friday night.
“Just came out aggressive,” Randle said. “That time of the year, got to lock in.”
Jalen Brunson broke a 109-all tie with a bank shot in traffic with 42.1 seconds remaining, and the Knicks held on from there in a pulsating matchup between two teams coming out of the All-Star break in the thick of Eastern Conference playoff race — but in far different positions.
The Knicks, who are trying to finish high enough to avoid the play-in round, now lead Miami by 1 1/2 games for sixth place. The 10th-place Wizards would make the play-in if the season ended now, but their lead over Chicago fell to 1 1/2 games.
Bradley Beal tied the game for Washington with a 3-pointer with 59.5 seconds remaining. Then Brunson drove into the lane, picked up his dribble and appeared to be stuck amid a group of players when he was able to flip the ball up off the glass and in.
“That was a big win for us,” Randle said. “We needed this, especially coming off the break. We know they’re a team that gets off to fast starts, so they did that and we responded.”
Porzingis missed a 3-pointer at the other end, and Randle found Mitchell Robinson for a layup that pushed New York’s lead to four with 11.2 seconds to go. Then Washington’s Kyle Kuzma stepped out of bounds while receiving an inbound pass, essentially sealing his team’s chances.
“They ramped up their defense a little bit,” Washington’s Monte Morris said. “Julius was balling. Feel like we could have gave him a couple more different looks at times. Just hitting him more, doubling him more a little bit. Any player in the league get it going like that, it’s hard to put out the fire.”
Porzingis and Kuzma scored 23 points apiece. Porzingis made all five of his 3-point attempts on his way to a 19-point first quarter, then didn’t attempt another shot until the fourth.
“They amped up the pressure, they started switching earlier with the pick-and-pops,” Porzingis said. “We have seen that before, of course, especially when we get going early in the game. I feel like we went away a little bit from that maybe two-man game with Brad.”
The Wizards led 57-38 in the second quarter, but New York came charging back behind Randle, whose dunk started a 12-2 run by the Knicks to close the half. Randle scored 11 points during that stretch, and Washington was up only 64-60 after two quarters.
“Once we got lost in the game and started getting some stops and the rebounding was good, and then the movement without the ball,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We got some easy buckets and then that got us going.”
Randle previously scored 46 points on March 7, 2022, at Sacramento.
Knicks: Randle went 7 of 14 from 3-point range. ... Immanuel Quickley scored 16 points and RJ Barrett had 14. ... Robinson (right thumb) played for the first time since Jan. 18. He had 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Wizards: Beal scored 16 points and Delon Wright added 15.
Knicks: Host New Orleans on Saturday night.
Wizards: At Chicago on Sunday.