By BRIAN MAHONEY
NEW YORK (AP) — Beating Atlanta isn’t enough for the New York Knicks. They want Julius Randle to be in Atlanta.
Randle scored a season-high 44 points, making a career-best seven 3-pointers and leading the Knicks to their third straight victory, 123-112 over the slumping Hawks on Monday night.
Randle added nine rebounds and five assists in perhaps the best performance of a season that should merit consideration for the All-Star Game in Atlanta next month.
“What else does he have to do?” teammate RJ Barrett said. “The man’s an All-Star.”
Randle scored 17 points on 7-for-8 shooting in the first quarter to send the Knicks to a fast start and ended up one point shy of his career high. He didn’t feel good about his first season in New York, and the seventh-year forward was driven to make this one better.
“A lot of people may have wrote me off, a lot of people may have had their doubts or whatever it may be, and that was just motivation or fuel,” Randle said. “For me it was just about coming back a better player and a better teammate than I was last year.”
Barrett added 21 points and rookie Immanuel Quickley had 16 for the Knicks, who improved to 14-15 and can reach .500 with a victory over Orlando on Wednesday. They have doubled their win total through 29 games from last season, when they were 7-22.
Trae Young had 23 points and eight assists for the Hawks, who dropped their fourth straight and seventh in the last eight games.
The Hawks yielded 118, 125 and 125 in the first three games of the skid and had plenty more trouble defensively with a Knicks team that scored 20 more than its NBA-low 103.3 points per game. New York tied its season best with 66 points in the first half.
The Knicks raced to a 16-5 lead in the first four minutes and Quickley’s 3-pointer to open the second made it 42-28, New York’s largest lead.
Atlanta scored the first nine points of the third for a 72-66 lead after John Collins’ dunk, but couldn’t control Randle — the only Knicks player to score for nearly half the quarter. New York surged ahead again with a 15-2 spurt, and another 3 by Randle made it 93-86 with just over a minute remaining in the period.
“He hit every big 3,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “And our guys competed and we’re constantly trying to find those big-play moments on our side, and we got dinged by a guy making play after play all night.”
The biggest might have been a 3-pointer with the Knicks protecting a two-point lead with under 3 1/2 minutes to play. Randle then found Barrett for another 3 that made it 115-107 and knocked down a jumper that pushed the lead to eight with 1:36 left.
Hawks: Collins had 19 points. Cam Reddish and Danilo Gallinari each scored 16. … Clint Capela, the NBA’s leading rebounder, had 15 points and 18 boards. He has been in double figures in rebounds in 22 of 24 games this season.
Knicks: Coach Tom Thibodeau said center Mitchell Robinson will have another consultation with a surgeon on his broken right hand Tuesday and afterward would have a better update on how much time he could miss. … Frank Ntilikina missed his fourth straight game because of health and safety protocols. Thibodeau said Ntilikina continues to test negative for the coronavirus.
MR. NICE GUY
Thibodeau has always had a reputation as a no-nonsense workaholic, but Pierce described a much different personality at the Las Vegas Summer League or NBA coaches’ meetings.
“About as nice a person as you’ll meet,” Pierce said. “He’s always got a smile on his face. He’s easy to talk to. Different personality come game time.”
Thibodeau smiled when told that Derrick Rose, playing for him for the third time, said he’s never seen the coach smile as much as he has now.
“Look, I want us to work,” Thibodeau said. “I think when you get a team that’s committed to playing for each other and doing the right things, I also want us to enjoy it.”
Hawks: Visit the Boston Celtics for games on Wednesday and Friday.
Knicks: Visit the Orlando Magic on Wednesday.