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Randle leads Knicks over Lakers and back above .500

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Wendell Cruz

New York Knicks forward Obi Toppin (1) dunks against the Los Angeles Lakers in the second quarter of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York, Monday, April 12, 2021. (Wendell Cruz/Pool Photo via AP)

NEW YORK – Same city, whole different kind of game for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Two nights after dominating the Nets, the defending champions got a look at how much better the New York Knicks are defensively.

Julius Randle had 34 points and 10 rebounds against his former team and the Knicks beat the Lakers 111-96 on Monday night for their third straight victory.

“Really poor passing, some bad decisions and some it you have to credit the defense. But as good as we were offensively two nights ago, we were just as bad tonight,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.

Coming off tense finishes against Memphis and Toronto, the Knicks led comfortably for much of the fourth quarter and moved back above .500 at 28-27, bouncing back nicely after narrow losses to Brooklyn and Boston last week.

“There’s ups and downs in a season and you have to keep going. If you get knocked down, dust yourself off, get up and come back with more fight and grit. That’s what this team has,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “It has a togetherness and a belief that we can get it done.”

Elfrid Payton scored 20 points and Derrick Rose added 14 off the bench for the Knicks, who were sparked by Randle's 13 points in the first quarter had plenty of energy on the second night of back-to-back games.

“They’re a good defensive team and I was just aggressive from the start,” Randle said, “and it’s important early on on the second night of a back-to-back to bring energy and that’s what I tried to do.”