Knicks begin tough part of trip with game vs. Grizzlies

NBA

The New York Knicks are on their most significant trip in eight years, and the first part went exceedingly well.

Now comes the tough part as the Knicks play five straight against foes currently in the top eight in the Western Conference, starting with Monday’s visit to the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Knicks (36-28) are 11-1 in their past 12 games since a two-point road loss to the Boston Celtics on April 7. New York’s hot streak has propelled them from eighth in the East to fourth.

The Knicks’ 133-129 home overtime win over the Memphis Grizzlies on April 9 triggered a nine-game winning streak, New York’s longest since it won 13 in a row in 2013, the most recent year the Knicks made the playoffs. The winning streak ended last Monday with a 118-110 home loss to the Phoenix Suns.

The past two games have produced strong responses from New York, which after meeting Memphis will visit Denver, Phoenix, the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers.

On Wednesday, the Knicks dominated the fourth quarter in a 113-94 win over the Chicago Bulls, and on Sunday the Knicks began the trip with a 122-97 rout of the Houston Rockets.

New York’s Julius Randle scored 31 points, marking the eighth time in the past 10 games he has finished with at least 30 points. Perhaps more importantly, he played 30 minutes on the first night of a back-to-back.

“It was good,” Randle said in his postgame interview with MSG Network. “Other than (the) All-Star break, it’s the longest break we had all year. It’s been a tough year as far as the back-to-backs and the games being so close.

“We had three days off, got to rest and recover, and our biggest thing was just not to come out and be sluggish. We did a little bit in the beginning, but we picked it up right where we left off, kept playing and got the game over with.”

Randle was able to post one of his lowest minute totals of the season because the Knicks dominated. Derrick Rose added 24 points and RJ Barrett contributed 21 as New York shot 51.7 percent from the field and hit 18 3-pointers.

Memphis (32-31) is in eighth place in the West and holds one of the four play-in spots but is trying to fend off the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs. The Grizzlies are 3 1/2 games behind the seventh-place Portland Trail Blazers.

Memphis nearly won its visit to New York on April 9, but Ja Morant missed a floater at the buzzer that would have snapped a 114-114 tie. New York won 133-129 in overtime.

Since Morant’s miss, Memphis is 6-7, with three defeats by two points or less. On Saturday, the Grizzlies suffered a 112-111 loss to the host Orlando Magic when they allowed a 3-pointer by Cole Anthony with 0.1 seconds remaining.

The Grizzlies blew a 20-point lead in the third quarter.

“Those are must-wins,” Memphis rookie Xavier Tillman Sr. said. “Those are the games we got to take advantage of. When we have a big lead, we cannot give it up.”

Dillon Brooks led the Grizzlies with 23 points, Morant added 22 and Kyle Anderson 21.

“It doesn’t matter who we are playing — the worst team in the East or the best in the West — we need all of these games,” Brooks said. “It’s just energy and competitiveness.”

–Field Level Media

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