NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Julius Randle hit contested mid-range shots, at times while fading away from the basket, as the fourth quarter wound down.
When Zion Williamson tried to answer, he ran into a wall of defenders in front of the rim, and his Pelicans teammates couldn’t shoot well enough from outside to make the Knicks pay for packing the paint.
Randle scored 32 points against his former team and the Knicks clamped down defensively on Williamson for a 116-106 victory over New Orleans on Wednesday night.
“Zion’s a handful, so we had to show him as many bodies as we can and get out and cover the shooters,” Randle said. “My teammates just did a great job of being there, showing bodies, giving me help and then making the extra effort — the second-effort plays of getting after shooters and making it hard for them.”
Reserve guard Alec Burks scored New York’s first 11 points of the fourth quarter, added a crushing 3 and finished with 21 points for the Knicks, who’ve won four straight for the first time this season.
“Super-impressive,” Randle said of Burks, “That’s a bad boy, man. When he gets on a roll like that, ain’t nothing you can really do with him. So, for me as a leader on the team, I want to just keep feeding him confidence, just giving him whatever he needs just to get going. Because when he plays like that, it makes our team so much more dynamic.”
Williamson, who came in having scored at least 30 points in three straight, mustered 25 points against a Knicks defense that double- and triple-teamed him near the basket. But he scored just four points during the final 19 minutes.
Williamson indicated that he was trying not to force tough shots.
“Four or five (defenders) are right there. Two or three people have got to be open,” Williamson said. “I try to make plays when I can, but at the end of the day, I’m just trying to find an open teammate.”
Brandon Ingram scored 28 for New Orleans, which saw its three-game winning streak snapped against a Knicks squad that looks vastly improved and increasingly relevant in coach Tom Thibodeau’s first season.
Having won five of seven, the Knicks (29-27) are currently in the Eastern Conference playoff picture — within a couple games of a top-four seed — with 16 contests left in the regular season.
Randle’s highlights included a double-pump, fall-away jumper while being fouled by James Johnson to put the Knicks up 107-97 with 5:50 left. And the way New York was playing defense, the Pelicans couldn’t get within six points after that.
Randle also went 5 of 8 from deep. Reggie Bullock hit four 3s and scored 16 for New York. Taj Gibson grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked two shots.
Neither team got much separation during a fast-moving, back-and-forth third quarter. New Orleans matched its largest lead when Ingram’s layup made it 87-82. But the Knicks responded with an 11-2 run to close the quarter, starting with Bullock’s 3.
Derrick Rose added a driving floater and step-back jumper at the horn to give the Knicks a 93-89 lead. Burks’ fourth-quarter outburst increased the run to 17-4 and New York never trailed again.
Knicks: Rose and ex-Pelican and New Orleans native Elfrid Payton each scored 11. ... Reserves combined for 43 points. ... New York committed just six turnovers.
Pelicans: Guard Lonzo Ball missed his fourth straight game with a sore left hip flexor. Naji Marshall started in his place and had 14 points and nine rebounds. .... Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said Marshall did not start the Pelicans’ victory over Sacramento on Monday because of “a little situation that happened within the team.” Van Gundy did not elaborate other than adding, “It wasn’t a major deal.” ... Wes Iwundu, who started for Marshall on Monday and had 11 points and seven rebounds, played just four minutes against New York and had one rebound. ... Johnson scored 13 points. ... Adams grabbed 10 rebounds.
DISPARITY FROM DEEP
The Knicks finished 17 of 33 from 3-point range, while Pelicans went 6 of 28 from deep.
“The difference in the game is 3-point shooting,” Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Our 3-point defense wasn’t good enough and our 3-point offense wasn’t good enough.”
Knicks: Visit Dallas on Friday night before a Sunday afternoon rematch with New Orleans to open a six-game home stand.
Pelicans: Visit Washington on Friday night in the first of two straight on the road.
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