Randle scores 31 points as Knicks rout Rockets 122-97

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) drives with the ball as Houston Rockets center Christian Wood (35) defends during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets in Houston, Sunday, May 2, 2021. (Troy Taormina/Pool Photo via AP)
New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) drives with the ball as Houston Rockets center Christian Wood (35) defends during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets in Houston, Sunday, May 2, 2021. (Troy Taormina/Pool Photo via AP) (Troy Taormina)

HOUSTON – Julius Randle scored 31 points in three quarters to lead the New York Knicks to a 122-97 victory over the Houston Rockets on Sunday night.

Randle, who had seven rebounds and six assists, scored 15 points in the third quarter to pad the lead and spent the fourth quarter on the bench with the game out of reach.

“We turned it up I the second half," Randle said. “Made good plays, defense tightened up and we busted the game open."

It was the 11th victory in 12 games for the Knicks and the seventh loss in eight games for the Rockets, who have the NBA’s worst record at 16-49.

New York also beat Houston in the first meeting this season on Feb. 13 to win the season series for the first time since 2002-03. It’s just the second win for the Knicks in Houston in 16 trips, with the last one coming on Nov. 21, 2015.

Randle continued his recent stellar play by scoring at least 30 points for the fourth time in five games. It’s the 13th time this season that he’s finished with 30 points or more.

“He’s seen every type of defense all season long," New York coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He’s gotten comfortable with the double team, he’s gotten comfortable with attacking zones. There’s great versatility to his game which puts a lot of pressure on the defense."

The Rockets scored five straight points, punctuated with a dunk by Christian Wood, to cut the lead to 73-64 with about 5 minutes left in the third quarter.