WASHINGTON (AP)Mike Miller took over a team with just four wins earlier this month and has already led the New York Knicks to five victories.
The interim coach is deflecting all the credit, pointing to Julius Randle’s play of late.
Randle scored 30 points and equaled a season high with 16 rebounds, Bobby Portis added 17 points and the Knicks beat the Washington Wizards 107-100 on Saturday night.
”A little bit into the season, we’re learning how to play off each other a little bit better. Playing a little faster,” Randle said. ”I’m reading it better, getting to spots better, recognizing how they’re playing me, playing at a better pace. Coaches are doing a better job of getting me in spots where I can be efficient.”
Miller became interim coach on Dec. 7 after David Fizdale was fired with a 4-18 record. He is 5-6 in his first stint as an NBA coach.
Randle has scored 35, 33 and 30 points in the last three games for a Knicks team that has won two in a row.
”He has been fantastic,” Miller said. ”He’s doing so many different things. But the scoring is all timely. It’s when you need a basket. He’s got such a confidence about him. He’s making all the plays and he’s really conscious of doing the other things. He’s really impacting me.”
Isaiah Thomas and Jordan McRae each scored 20 points for Washington. Gary Payton II, one of the two free agents the team signed this week who started, had 15.
The Wizards played without Bradley Beal, the NBA’s fifth-leading scorer, who was out with soreness in his right lower leg. Beal averages 27.8 points. Payton started in his place.
”Not playing with him is very hard,” McRae said about Beal. ”He’s a two-time All-Star. He averages 30 points. If he’s not on the court, that’s 30 points that we don’t have.”
There were 19 lead changes, and the final one came when Randle hit a jumper with 7:56 remaining to give New York (9-24) a 93-92 lead. The Knicks held Washington (9-22) scoreless for 5:51 in the fourth quarter. The Wizards scored just eight points in the final 8:19.
Knicks: G Dennis Smith Jr. missed his second straight game with a left oblique strain. … Portis was assessed a technical foul late in the first quarter. … Held Washington to 34.4% from the field after holding Brooklyn to an NBA season-low 26.9% on Thursday.
Wizards: Coach Scott Brooks hopes that Beal will miss just a game. Beal’s consecutive game streak of 194 was broken. He last sat out on April 12, 2017. …Brooks said that Fs Davis Bertans (quad) and Rui Hachimura (groin), and C Mo Wagner (ankle) will all be out for at least the next week. … Thomas returned after serving a two-game suspension for entering the stands to confront a fan. … Johnathan Williams, the other free agent signed this week, had two points in 13 minutes in his first start.
Miller, who joined the Knicks’ staff at the beginning of the season, was a college coach for nearly 25 years, and spent the past six years in the G League.
At 55, he’s not naive about the NBA and who sets the tempo.
”We work together on it, and the players make it easy,” Miller said. ”How much they play and how well they play together and what combinations work. They’re making a lot of those things happen for us.”
PAYTON WANTS HIS PLACE TO BE THE NBA
Payton was re-signed by the Wizards on Dec. 23. He had a 10-day stint with them last season.
”I’ve been hungry for it ever since I got here,” Payton said. ”In and out of the G League and I’m trying to find somewhere to stick. I think these guys here appreciate what I do.”
Knicks: Host the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday.
Wizards: Host the Miami Heat in the second of a six-game homestand on Monday.
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