Julius Randle scores 24 points as Knicks beat Hawks for third straight win

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ATLANTA — The Knicks are a winning team for the first time since November and Julius Randle got his revenge in ATL.

Randle and his teammates turned away a late run by the nemesis Hawks on Saturday, with the embattled power forward icing the 117-108 victory with a powerful move in the paint. After that and-1 conversion with about three minutes remaining, Randle gave his famous thumbs-down gesture to the Hawks fans jeering near courtside.

Knicks fans can appreciate that reaction.

They can also appreciate Randle scoring 24 points with nine assists and six rebounds. The Knicks (22-21), as a result, won their third straight. They’re 8-3 since Christmas and 5-1 since the New Year. The starting lineup is clicking.

Symbolically, the Knicks stumbled on a downward trajectory in this same arena last year, when they were run out of Atlanta with consecutive playoff losses. They were outmatched and outmuscled by the Hawks.

But this season has presented a much different scenario. The Knicks are already 3-0 against the Hawks, with Saturday turning into a fairly commanding victory. They led for the entirety of the final three quarters and by as many as 17.

The Hawks (17-25), led by Trae Young’s 29 points, cut the deficit 2 in the fourth quarter but never tied it.

Atlanta, which was missing stalwart center Clint Capela with an ankle sprain and wing Bogdan Bogdanovic with a sore knee, is a defensive mess. It entered Saturday allowing an average of 112 points per game and were picked apart by the Knicks.

The Hawks’ excuse was playing on a second night of a back-to-back after falling to the Heat on Friday, but pitiful defense has been a season-long issue.

R.J. Barrett dropped a team-high 26 points for the Knicks and every starter scored at least 14.

Randle, who struggled mightily in last year’s playoff series, was feeling good Saturday. In the third quarter, he crossed up Atlanta’s John Collins on the perimeter and sent the defender so off-balance he fell to the court. But Collins’ teammate returned the embarrassment when he spectacularly rejected Randle at the rim in the fourth quarter.

The Knicks’ latest acquisition, Cam Reddish, was on the sideline in street clothes while nursing a sore ankle. He was dealt from the Hawks just two days prior and watched his new team defeat his old one.

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