The New York Knicks are encountering difficulties without injured Jalen Brunson, especially when Julius Randle is unable to get anything going.
If Brunson (sore left foot) sits in Los Angeles on Sunday night against the Lakers, the Knicks will need Randle to reverse his sudden slump if they are to halt a three-game losing streak.
The Knicks are on their first three-game skid since dropping four straight Jan. 16-22. This skid follows their nine-game winning streak that was highlighted by last Sunday’s 131-129 double-overtime win at Boston. Brunson sat out with the injury he sustained in a 122-120 win at Miami two nights earlier.
Brunson has played 19 minutes during New York’s past three games. He sat out Tuesday’s seven-point home loss to the Charlotte Hornets and then played through the pain in the first half when the Knicks began their four-game western trip with a 122-117 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Thursday.
On Saturday, the Knicks dropped to 3-4 when Brunson does not play as Randle shot 5 of 24 from the field and scored 19 points in a 106-95 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. The Knicks shot 35.6 percent.
“He’s been there for us; he’s our floor general,” New York’s RJ Barrett said of Brunson. “Definitely miss having him on the floor, but that was that, and we got to figure it out and figure out how to get these wins.”
Randle scored 31 in the first game of Brunson’s absence but has been held under 25 in three straight contests. In those games, he has shot 28.5 percent (18 of 63), including 7 of 31 from 3-point range.
New York is 18-17 when Randle is held under 25 points, and Saturday’s showing might have been his most frustrating this season. Besides the rough shooting performance, he got a technical foul for elbowing Mason Plumlee and then shouted at teammate Evan Fournier and a team security guard as he was being restrained from going after the officials.
“I mean, I wasn’t good today. I was bad,” Randle said.
While the Knicks still remain in the top six of the Eastern Conference and percentage points behind the fifth-place Brooklyn Nets, the Lakers are ninth in the Western Conference and a half-game behind the two teams directly in front of them — Minnesota and Dallas.
Los Angeles is 5-2 since losing LeBron James for multiple weeks due to right-foot soreness and also is seeking its first four-game winning streak since putting together five straight wins Dec. 30 to Jan. 7.
The Lakers won their third straight Friday night when they shot 56.3 percent from the floor in a 122-112 home win over the Toronto Raptors. D’Angelo Russell returned from missing four games with a sprained right ankle and scored 28 points.
Russell’s showing helped offset a quiet performance from Anthony Davis, who was held to eight points after scoring 107 over his previous three contests.
“That we were able to come away with this win against a really good team with only eight from (Davis), that’s a sign of growth,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “That’s a sign of how deep and talented we are.”