Julius Randle absolutely dominates Mavericks to keep Knicks rolling

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DALLAS — Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle knew what his club might be in for with Julius Randle back in his hometown of Big D.

“He’s an All-Star who loves coming back to play here,’’ Carlisle said before the game.

And how. Friday was Randle’s best game yet — and one of the Knicks’ most impressive victories this season.

It has been an eventful week of homecoming games for Randle, and he capped it with a spectacular 44-point outing that paced the streaking Knicks to a terrific 117-109 victory over the Mavericks before a pandemic crowd of 4,000 fans at American Airlines Center.

The Knicks won their season-high fifth straight game to go a season-high three games over .500 at 30-27, and Randle missed tying his career high by one point. The Knicks are 3-1 against their former star, Kristaps Porzingis, the past two seasons.

Kristaps who? If the Knicks hadn’t traded Porzingis, who shot 8-for-20, they likely would never have signed Randle.

And Randle has made the Knicks forget about the Latvian, who finished with 23 points, but was outclassed by Randle. Knicks fans in the crowd chanted “MVP’’ as the Dallas native shot free throws in the final seconds.

RJ Barrett added 24 points with a clutch fourth quarter.

Already this week, Randle had gained revenge on his first NBA team, the Lakers, in scoring 34 points, and keyed a win against his second team, the Pelicans, with 32 points.

But he looked even sharper Friday, as if he were playing his season’s first game instead of his season’s 56th contest.

Randle shot 16-for-29 — and 6-for-11 from 3-point range. The lefty All-Star freight train scored the Knicks’ first 10 points and started the game 4-for-4, acing his 3-pointers and rambling to the basket.

He racked up 15 points in the first quarter and managed 21 by halftime as the Knicks led 56-52 at intermission. He was 9-for-12 from the field — and 3-for-7 from 3.

Randle had 35 points after three quarters, but an early fourth-quarter spree by Barrett, with the Knicks power forward resting, was critical.

Frank Ntilikina, spurred into action by the absence of Alec Burks (who is in COVID-19 protocols), also hit a big 3-pointer.

Knicks center Nerlens Noel, playing on a sore ankle, was gritty with 10 rebounds and three blocks. He also roughed up Porzingis and hit two crucial free throws with 2:10 left.

The Knicks built a 34-25 lead as Porzingis got off to a slow start, missing an alley-oop dunk and committing two poor turnovers, including throwing a pass out of bounds without a Maverick within 10 feet of the area.

The 7-foot-3 Latvian heated up late, scoring seven points in the final four minutes of the second quarter to finish with 10 at halftime while also blocking an Elfrid Payton drive.

But Porzingis was inefficient in shooting 4-for-12 by halftime, and Dallas star Luka Doncic was quiet.

Indeed, Porzingis was frustrated by Noel’s physical play. Porzingis picked up a late technical foul in the final seconds of the half arguing after he got jostled as he went up for a putback on an offensive rebound.

This was the Knicks’ first game without Burks, who is out indefinitely.

Burks will probably have to stay in Dallas as the Knicks fly home to face the Pelicans on Sunday at the Garden. Burks could be quarantined for 10 days.

Before the game, coach Tom Thibodeau said “several players have gotten vaccinated.’’ Indications were the majority of the team has gotten COVID-19 vaccine shots, but unclear if Burks was part of the group.

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