On Julius Randle's birthday, the New York Knicks' forward and his teammates received the gift of playing an undermanned Detroit Pistons squad on Tuesday.
The Knicks may not find as generous an opponent on Wednesday night when they complete a back-to-back set by hosting the Milwaukee Bucks.
Randle had his best game of the season as the Knicks rolled to their most lopsided victory of the campaign, a 140-110 thrashing of the host Pistons. The Bucks most recently played Sunday, when they completed a 3-1 homestand by beating the Dallas Mavericks 124-115.
Randle, who turned 28 on Tuesday, finished with 36 points, exceeding his previous season high of 34 set against the Denver Nuggets on Nov. 16. The Knicks posted their biggest margin of victory since a 118-88 win over the Orlando Magic on April 3 and produced their highest point total since a 140-121 win over the Sacramento Kings on Feb. 25, 2021.
The win was the third for New York this season over the NBA-worst Pistons, who were without Cade Cunningham (left shin) for an 11th straight game as they dropped their third in a row. The nature of the rout also provided some much-needed rest for Randle, who sat out the fourth quarter, and relief for the Knicks following a pair of narrow home losses.
New York guard Jalen Brunson missed the potential game-winning shots in the final seconds of regulation in both a 132-129 overtime loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday and a 127-123 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday.
"I just think it's important that we came away with this win, no matter how it happened," Brunson said Tuesday night. "We've got to keep stacking wins."
Only the Boston Celtics are doing a better job of stacking wins than the Bucks, who sit two games behind the Celtics in the early-season race for the best record in the NBA.
The Bucks' current two-game winning streak marks the first time they have posted back-to-back victories since opening the season 9-0. Milwaukee lost four of six before beating another Eastern Conference contender, the Cleveland Cavaliers, 117-102 on Friday.
The Bucks outscored the Cavaliers 65-39 in the second half and carried the momentum into Sunday, when they never trailed while beating the Mavericks.
Milwaukee got double-doubles against Dallas from superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo (30 points, 11 rebounds) and reserve Bobby Portis (15 points, 10 rebounds), and the Bucks also benefited from Grayson Allen draining his first seven 3-point attempts on his way to finishing with 25 points.
The Bucks' defense limited Luka Doncic, the NBA's leading scorer, to 27 points. It was just the fifth time this season that Doncic scored less than 30 points.
"It's not probably our nature -- my nature -- but I think to be a balanced team and be good on both ends of the court is really the ultimate goal," Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said Sunday night. "Can you do it on both ends and do whatever it takes to win night in and night out?"
--Field Level Media