Julius Randle getting ‘loaded up on’ with Jalen Brunson out for Knicks


Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle have formed a dangerous and productive 1-2 punch for the Knicks the past two seasons, with both in the conversation for All-Star berths this season.

Still, Randle has endured several rough games when Brunson is not in uniform, including the past two with the potential first-time All-Star guard sidelined with a calf injury.

Randle scored 15 points — only the second time in his past 25 appearances he was held under 20 — on 5-for-18 shooting in Monday’s giveaway loss to the Magic on MLK Day at the Garden.

Brunson, who also sat out Saturday’s win in Memphis, officially has been listed as questionable again on the injury report for Wednesday’s home tilt against the Rockets.

“Yeah, they loaded up on [Randle] pretty good,” Tom Thibodeau said of the double-teaming Magic after Monday’s game. “They have size at the rim. … You get past the initial line and then that second line is waiting for you. With [center] Isaiah [Hartenstein] being in foul trouble, he can pull people away from the basket. We missed that part of it, as well.

“We need Julius, he usually doesn’t have games like that. I thought he was doing other stuff for us. Julius can beat you a lot of different ways. He can beat you with the pass. I thought we had good possessions with the dribble handoff with him, it got us moving into it pretty quick. That part was good, but it was choppy.”

Julius Randle has struggled recently with Jalen Brunson out of the lineup. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Randle posted three strong games with Brunson sidelined with a hip injury during a Texas triangle trip in December of last season, averaging 35.0 points and 13.7 rebounds while nailing 16 of 37 from 3-point range (43.2 percent).

But in the past 10 games in which Brunson did not play, the two-time All-Star power forward has registered 23.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists, while committing 31 turnovers and shooting 38.7 percent from the field and 26.7 (24-for-90) from 3-point distance.

The Knicks scored only 16 points in the fourth quarter — and were held without a field goal during one six-minute stretch — in squandering a seven-point lead with barely nine minutes remaining.

Despite praising fill-in starter Miles McBride, who scored a career-high 20 points in 36 minutes Monday, Randle assessed that the Knicks’ offense was “way too stagnant” without Brunson.

They missed 27 of 40 attempts from 3-point range and shot 39.8 overall from the field against the Magic.

“Obviously missing JB. He’s a big piece for us. It’s tough. But we had enough to win that game,” said Randle, who also missed two key free throws with 2:37 to play and the Knicks down by one. “They’re collapsing [on me], but I missed a lot of easy shots, too.”

Jalen Brunson has missed the past three games with an injury. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

The Knicks canceled practice Tuesday, but Thibodeau had said that Brunson was “day-to-day” when asked after Monday’s game if his starting point guard was expected to play against the Rockets, who are 19-20 after signing former Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet over the summer in free agency.

Brunson tested his bruised left calf on the MSG court before Monday’s game — Thibodeau said he was doing “a little better” — but the Knicks missed his stabilizing presence, especially down the stretch.

“Pain tolerance. He just goes through his routine to work out to get ready to play,” Thibodeau said. “You know, I trust him. When he’s ready to go he’ll let us know.

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle reacts on the court during the third quarter against the Magic. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

“When he’s ready, he’s ready. We’ve got more than enough to win.”

McBride, who was signed to a three-year contract extension worth $13 million after RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley were dealt to Toronto in the OG Anunoby trade in late December, has netted 19 and 20 points in his first two starts of the season in place of Brunson.

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