Knicks shut out Pelicans on 1972-73 title night

Before the Knicks celebrated the golden anniversary of the franchise’s most recent NBA title Saturday night, Jalen Brunson grabbed the microphone to address the Madison Square Garden crowd.

He cited the admirable traits of that 1972-73 NBA championship team that today’s Knicks hope to emulate as they continue their journey back to relevance: hard work, selflessness and sacrifice.

Those qualities were once again on display for the surging Knicks, who picked up their fifth straight post-Josh Hart deadline deal win with a 128-106 drubbing of the slumping Pelicans.

Julius Randle followed his career-high 46 points from Friday night in Washington by scoring 28, including 16 in the first quarter, as the Knicks (35-27) closed within a half of the No. 1 Nets. 5th playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Brunson finished with 20 points and five assists, and R.J. Barrett had an efficient all-around game with 25 points on 8-for-13 shooting and a season-high seven assists in Friday’s win over the Wizards.

Julius Randle, who scored 28 points, celebrates with Immanuel Quickley during the Knicks' 128-106 victory over the Pelicans on a night the franchise honored the Knicks' 1973 world championship team led by Clyde Frazier.
Julius Randle, who scored 28 points, celebrates with Immanuel Quickley during the Knicks’ 128-106 victory over the Pelicans on a night the franchise honored the 1972-73 Knicks world championship team, led by Walt “Clyde Frazier.
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Hart (15 points) and Immanuel Quickley (13) again contributed off the bench, while Mitchell Robinson posted his second straight double-double (11 points and 13 rebounds in 28 minutes) after returning to the lineup Friday for the first time since Jan. 19 thumb surgery.

Derrick Rose even made his first appearance since December. 31 in the final minutes of laughter after fans chanted the popular veteran’s name for several minutes.

Brandon Ingram scored 19 points to lead the Pelicans, who fell to 6-17 in the 23 games All-Star forward Zion Williamson has been sidelined since suffering a hamstring injury on Jan. 2.

walt "clyde" Frazier addresses Knicks fans during a ceremony honoring the 1973 championship team.
Walt “Clyde” Frazier addresses Knicks fans during an honor ceremony for the 1972-73 championship team.
Noah K. Murray-NY Post

Randle, who threw an exclamation point on a pass off the backboard from Quickley late in the fourth quarter, certainly shows no signs of complacency after his second All-Star designation in three years. He continues to put behind him a difficult 2021-22 season with an overall scoring average of 25.1 points per game.

“I think the biggest thing is to never quit,” coach Tom Thibodeau said before the game about Randle. “Obviously, [two] years ago he had an incredible season. And then being mentally tough in the face of adversity is probably the most important thing in life. So he didn’t stay down. React and I think every situation teaches you something.

“Last year was difficult, teams put a lot more pressure on him. They didn’t wait to see if it would go. So he was able to take all that and start. He and Jalen really connected. The whole team, really.”

RJ Barrett, who scored 25 points, leads Josh Richardson during the Knicks' win.
RJ Barrett, who scored 25 points, leads Josh Richardson during the Knicks’ win.
Noah K. Murray-NY Post

Barrett also had a strong performance after going the final 7:56 on Friday night in Washington as Thibodeau went with Hart and Quickley for the entire fourth quarter.

“It’s going to be what goes well, but RJ is obviously a very important part of the team,” Thibodeau said. “Just go out there, we want everybody to sacrifice, put the team first.

“Sometimes another man makes it and that’s the way it is. But put the team first. he was always the team guy. Go out there and contribute whatever you can to the team, winning, that’s what we want everyone to do.”

On Saturday, Obie Taupin’s 3-pointer with 38.1 seconds left in the first quarter pushed the Knicks’ cushion to 42-22. They went 8-for-15 from 3-point range in the opening quarter — including a 4-for-6 start by Randle — and led 42-26 heading into the second.

The Knicks led by as many as 23 early in the second quarter before going into halftime with a 73-52 advantage. Randle hit his fifth 3-pointer of the season and had 19 points at halftime, with Barrett adding 13 and Brunson totaling 12.

After multi-generational fan favorite Clyde Frazier addressed the crowd during the halftime ceremony — with a video message sent by former captain Willis Reed — the current Knicks got back to work. They extended their lead to 27 with 7:24 left in the third quarter on back-to-back 3-pointers by Brunson and Quentin Grimes and took a 102-82 lead into the final period.