SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Julius Randle got fined by the NBA Sunday and then got even.
This time it was the Knicks’ turn to rally from a big shortage and capture a desperately needed victory.
Randle exploded for a career-high 46 points to lead a 44-point third-quarter barrage as the Knicks rallied from 19 points down in the first half to knock out the Kings, 131-115, in a Wild West shootout at Golden1 Center.
By winning their back-to-back California set against the Clippers and Kings, the Knicks posted their first two-game winning streak since early-to-mid January when they reeled off three straight wins against San Antonio, Dallas and Atlanta.
The Knicks, at 27-38, moved to 4 ½ games behind the Hawks for the 10th seed and final Eastern Conference play-in spot with 17 games to play. They’ve played well since the All-Star break and now have something to show for it.
Suspect from the 3-point line this season, Randle fired in a career-high 8 of 16 3-pointers and shot 18 of 31 overall. It’s been an odd trip for Randle, who received a $50,000 fine from the NBA on Sunday for not participating in the league’s investigation into his Friday skirmish in Phoenix with Cam Johnson.
“When he plays with that type of intensity, it lifts everyone,” Tom Thibodeau said of Randle. “He was attacking the basket, shooting the three, making hustle plays. It was a great all-around game from him.”
RJ Barrett also had a big second half and finished with 27 points and Immanuel Quickley also fired in 27. Evan Fournier shook off an 0-for-4 start to pile up 15 points.
They were dead in the water in the first half, and minus their sparkplug center Mitchell Robinson, who picked up two fouls in the first two minutes, was removed and then was said to have “an illness.”
The Knicks exploded for a 35-17 start to the second half to erase their 15-point halftime hole.
Randle hit a 3 in the final minute of the third to give the Knicks a 92-87 lead after three quarters and they ran away with it in the fourth quarter, keeping in their chief players until the final two minutes.
“I’m taking the open look and just taking it,” Randle said of his 3-point bust-out. “Just playing and not second-guessing and shooting the open shot.”
Asked about the NBA fine, Randle paused and said, “Next question. I’m already in too much trouble.”
The Knicks outscored the Kings 44-24 in the third, the most they’ve scored in any period this season. Randle scored 17 in the quarter and had 30 entering the final period.
The bad news was Cam Reddish’s injury. Going up to contest a shot early in the fourth quarter, Reddish got upended by a driving Davion Mitchell and fell badly, hitting his shoulder and possibly his head. Reddish stayed down, holding his head, then was helped off clutching his right shoulder with 11:11 left.
The Knicks also got a gutty defensive performance from rookie point guard Miles McBride. Late in the third period, McBride stole the ball from Mitchell and got fouled. On the next possession, McBride forced a jump ball.
As good as it would get, the game started badly. The Kings jumped to 7-0 and 12-2 leads. Robinson picked up two fouls in the opening 1:40.
He was removed and rookie backup center Jericho Sims picked up three fouls. Instead of going back to Robinson, Thibodeau put in the veteran Gibson for the first time since the All-Star break.
Late in the second quarter the team announced Robinson was done for the night with “an illness.” Robinson was coming off two spectacular games in Phoenix and versus the Clippers.
Meanwhile, without Robinson, the Knicks’ defense allowed the Kings much of everything. De’Aaron Fox went to the basket with impunity, scoring on four easy layups.
“We knew it would be challenging coming into the game because of the back-to-back and their speed,” Thibodeau said. “Fox’s speed is a great test for you and we got into a hole early. But we never quit and that was the best thing. We kept fighting, fighting. And then Julius got going and it was pretty terrific what he did all-around.”
The Kings got up as many as 19 points in the second quarter following a Donte’ DiVincenzo 3-pointer and led 63-48 at intermission before it all crashed and burned.