Knicks hold on to beat Wizards after nearly blowing another lead

WASHINGTON — Julius Randle had posted on his TikTok account Friday a video of a funny conversation in which he asked his 6-year-old son, Kyden, what grade the youngster would give the Knicks a shade past the midpoint of the regular season.

When Kyden replied that he would assess his father’s team a grade of “C,” Randle joked, “Tough critic, lol, looks like we got some work to do.”

Much of that work has to do with closing out double-digit leads, of course, but the Knicks held on for a 112-108 victory over the Wizards at Capital One Arena on Friday night after nearly squandering a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter.

“I feel like we’ve played better than of late, but we still have some work to do,” Jalen Brunson said. “We have to close out games better and we have to find ways to make life easier for us, for each other.”

Brunson netted 34 points with eight assists and eight rebounds, his fourth game of at least 30 in six appearances since returning from a hip injury earlier this month.

Julius Randle dunks during the Knicks' win over the Wizards on Jan 13.
Julius Randle dunks during the Knicks’ win over the Wizards on Jan 13.
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Randle contributed 23 points and 16 rebounds as the Knicks won for the ninth time in 11 road games and improved to 13-8 away from the Garden this season, trailing only the Celtics and the Nets in road victories (14 apiece).

“I really think it’s been defensively,” Randle said. “I don’t know what the numbers have been, but our ability to grind out wins and get stops and then execute in the second half and create separation has been good for us.”

Kyle Kuzma finished with 40 points and former Knicks All-Star Kristaps Porzingis had 21 on 6-for-19 shooting for the Wizards (18-25), slightly below his 22.0-point scoring average for the season.

Porzingis missed his first five attempts, but the Knicks started the game 2-for-14 from the field before a 12-0 run left them within 21-19 after the first quarter.

Kuzma netted nine points in the first six minutes of the second quarter as Washington extended its lead to eight, but a late 3-pointer by Brunson drew the Knicks within 53-50 at intermission.

Kuzma finished the half with 18 for the Wizards, who have been without leading scorer Bradley Beal (hamstring) the past four games.

Jalen Brunson shoots during the Knicks' win over the Wizards on Jan. 13.
Jalen Brunson shoots during the Knicks’ win over the Wizards on Jan. 13.
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Immanuel Quickley reacts after making a 3-pointer during the Knicks' win over the Wizards on Jan. 13.
Immanuel Quickley reacts after making a 3-pointer during the Knicks’ win over the Wizards on Jan. 13.

The Knicks retook the lead on Quentin Grimes’ 3-pointer 3:12 into the third, and Randle’s posterizing dunk in the face of Washington center Daniel Gafford — with the foul upheld upon review — made it a five-point game midway through the period .

Converted three-point plays by Grimes and Isaiah Hartenstein — with the latter a nifty passing sequence from Barrett to Immanuel Quickley to Hartenstein for a baseline dunk — helping the Knicks carry an 80-76 advantage into the final quarter.

When Kyden Randle was asked by his father earlier which area the Knicks need to improve most, his one-word reply? “Passing.”

“I think he would like that one. I definitely think he would like that one,” Julius Randle said. “I’ve got to ask him tonight.”

RJ Barrett dunks during the second quarter.
RJ Barrett dunks during the second quarter.

Quickley added 18 points and RJ Barrett finished with 17 for the Knicks, with each of them converting a three-point play for a 94-79 lead 3:30 into the fourth quarter.

Kuzma’s “and-1” play and his driving layup drew the Wizards back within three with 27.0 seconds remaining. Randle missed one of two free throws and then committed a foul on a 3-point attempt by Kuzma, who knocked down two of three for a 108-106 game with 16.6 seconds left on the clock.

Brunson coolly sank four free throws in the final 13.3 seconds for the Knicks, who have won six of seven following a five-game losing skid for a 24-19 overall record.

“We picked it up a little bit, we got stops, got in transition, got a couple of and-1’s and we just found a way,” Brunson said. “We just gotta keep fighting. We knew they weren’t gonna quit. That lead helped us out a little bit and helped us secure a big enough lead to put them away at the end.”

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