'He's cooking' - Knicks powerhouse Julius Randle dominates again in third consecutive win

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Julius Randle looks back to his best as he led the New York Knicks to a 121-102 victory against the Charlotte Hornets on Friday for his side's third consecutive win.

Randle, 28, is slowly rediscovering the form that saw him named to the All-NBA Second Team for the 2020-21 season, rebounding from a slow start to this campaign.

After averaging 18.3 points on 43.8 per cent shooting in October, Randle raised that to 22.2 points per game at 47.1 per cent shooting in November, before taking another step forward in the Knicks' current December winning streak.

In the Knicks' three wins this month, Randle is averaging 25.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists while shooting 47.2 per cent from the field and 37.0 per cent from deep on a gaudy nine attempts per contest.

He had a game-high 33 points against the Hornets, hitting four-of-10 from three-point range, while R.J. Barrett produced an efficient 26 points (nine-of-18 shooting) and Jalen Brunson set it all up with 11 points and 11 assists.

Speaking to the media after the game, Barrett kept it short and to the point when hyping up Randle.

"He's cooking," he said. "We need him to keep doing that."

Head coach Tom Thibodeau was willing to expand further on what exactly has changed in Randle's play, and he pointed to his overall effort, including the plays that do not make the highlight reel.

"[Randle] had a play where he was behind the play, beat everyone down the floor, pulled everyone in, and we ended up getting a three on it," he said. "There’s no stat for that, other than it helps you create rhythm for your team.

"He’s made several plays like that when he’s getting double-teams, getting off the ball, moving without the ball, he’s screening off the ball. He’s playing a great all-around game.

"I think that helps set the tone for the team. I thought we played very unselfishly."

Randle believes his terrific form is primarily about his mindset.

"I'm just being aggressive and taking what the defense is giving me," he said. "I'm playing with confidence.

"It's a lot of fun and everybody is in a rhythm. The energy is contagious."

The Knicks have now pulled their record even at 13-13, and are tied with the Atlanta Hawks for the seventh-best record in the Eastern Conference.