EditorsNote: changes to “seven points from” in seventh graf; rewords eighth graf
Julius Randle’s free throw with 4.6 seconds left sealed the host New York Knicks’ 125-123 victory over the Houston Rockets on Monday night.
RJ Barrett tied a career high with 27 points and Randle finished with 16 points and 16 rebounds for the Knicks, who raced to a 21-point, first-half lead before staving off a furious rally by the Rockets.
The Knicks, playing their first game since former agent Leon Rose became team president, have won two straight. Mitchell Robinson (12 points, 13 rebounds) also had a double-double while Bobby Portis and Wayne Ellington each had 15 points off the bench. Starter Maurice Harkless and reserve Frank Ntilikina added 11 points apiece.
James Harden had 35 points and went 16 of 16 from the free-throw line for the Rockets, who had their six-game winning streak snapped. Russell Westbrook scored 24 points, his 31st straight 20-point effort, but missed a potential game-tying jumper at the buzzer.
Houston’s Robert Covington had 20 points and 13 rebounds, Danuel House Jr. finished with 20 points, and Eric Gordon added 11.
The Knicks led by double figures throughout the third quarter and were in front 98-79 with 2:22 left when the Rockets began storming back. Harden scored six consecutive points and finished with nine points in a 12-3 run that pulled Houston within 101-91 at the end of the quarter.
The Rockets opened the fourth on a 10-2 run capped by a Covington 3-pointer that narrowed the Knicks’ lead to 103-101. Ellington and Gordon traded 3-pointers before New York went on a 12-5 run that included seven points from Portis, whose turnaround jumper with 4:48 left extended the lead to 118-109.
Harden scored six straight points to again pull the Rockets within a possession. Taj Gibson ended the run with two free throws to put the Knicks up 120-115. Soon after, Harden drained two free throws and Westbrook sliced through the lane for an explosive dunk to pull the Rockets within 121-119 with 1:27 left.
Randle sank one of two free throws on the Knicks’ next trip, after which Westbrook hit a driving layup to cut the lead to 122-121. Covington then blocked a layup by Randle, but Harden missed an open layup on the other end that would have given the Rockets the lead for the first time since the first quarter.
Barrett hit a layup on the Knicks’ next possession. Ntilikina fouled Westbrook, who made both free throws with 5.5 seconds remaining. Randle was fouled and hit one of two free throws before Westbrook, with Ntilikina covering him, missed an off-balance jumper from the free-throw line at the buzzer.
—Field Level Media