Julius Randle does it all as Knicks win 9th straight



Julius Randle has lifted the Knicks onto Cloud 9.

Randle pumped in another 31 points and the Knicks ripped off their ninth straight victory with a nationally televised, 120-103 win over the Raptors in a Saturday matinee at the Garden.

Randle added 10 rebounds for a double-double. RJ Barrett also recorded a double-double, finishing with 25 points and 12 rebounds after a fourth-quarter surge to make sure the Raptors were finished off.

As the Knicks received a standing ovation in the final seconds for the third straight game, Barrett waved for the fans to get louder.

“It’s tough for teams to play here,’’ Barrett said in an on-court interview, which led to the 1,981 socially spread-out fans erupting into an “RJ Barrett” chant.

It was all the giddiest of scenes as the Knicks moved to a stunning 34-27 record, 21-10 at the Garden and 4-0 on their current six-game homestand. The lofty Suns are next up on Monday.

As Knicks president Leon Rose and senior VP William Wesley walked off the court toward the locker room, they each raised their left arms toward the stands, with their index fingers sticking up. Whether the Knicks brass were saluting owner James Dolan in his suite or the Garden faithful is unclear.

Julius Randle helps lead Knicks to ninth straight victory.

“Since the fans have been back, it’s been amazing playing here,’’ Barrett said. “They give us such a boost. We’re really playing hard together and really want to make them proud. We want to give them something to cheer about.’’

The Knicks will go for 10 in a row Monday. The winning streak is their longest since 2013, when they reeled off 13 straight.

“Yeah we’re peaking, but we can still be a lot better,’’ Randle said.

Randle, who had posted 20 points by halftime, went 5-for-7 from 3-point range and shot 10-for-15 overall to score 30-plus points for the sixth time in seven games.

Afterward, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau compared Randle’s work ethic, which is rubbing off on his mates, to that of Patrick Ewing, arguably the greatest Knick of all time and a star player Thibodeau coached as an assistant for the team in the 1990s.

“It always starts with their best players,’’ Thibodeau said. “If they work like that, it sets the tone for the team. He’s relentless. It’s not an accident he’s having the type of season he’s having. His commitment — I could see it from the first day I met him.’’

When Randle was on the bench, disappointing rookie lottery pick Obi Toppin got hot early in the fourth quarter to deliver the knockout blow to the 12th-place Raptors (25-35). He drained two early fourth-quarter treys and was 3-for-3 on the day from behind the arc, finishing with nine points in 8:38.

Derrick Rose finished with 19 points and seven assists and saved the Knicks when starting point guard Elfrid Payton struggled in the third quarter, eliciting chants of “We Want Rose.’’

Payton finished with four turnovers, but it became a non-factor. Rose, a plus-26, sparked the team with a steal on Malachi Flynn, speeding downcourt like he was 22 — not 32 — for a breakaway layup.

Reggie Bullock kept up his 3-point shooting ways, going 3-for-7 and finishing with 16 points. The Knicks again lit it up from deep, hitting more than 50 percent (16-for-31).

“It’s the best part about the team,’’ Thibodeau said. “Julius is our engine but we have a lot of guys stepping up and the way they trust the game.’’

Randle set the early tone by banging in three 3-pointers in the opening four minutes. Then the lefty All-Star forward powered through three red jerseys for a layup late in the quarter. That gave him 13 points in the first quarter and the Knicks a four-point bulge.

“They’re playing like a team that doesn’t beat themselves,’’ Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “They don’t make many mistakes. Solid, physical defense. low turnovers. They don’t get shook up or get rattled easily. They got some really experienced guys. A lot to like on this team.’’A lot to love, too.

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