RJ Barrett, Knicks dominate LaMelo Ball, Hornets for 3rd straight victory

NEW YORK — Make it three in a row.

The Knicks defeated the Charlotte Hornets in a 129-107 blowout at Madison Square Garden in a matinee matchup Sunday afternoon.

New York (4-3) is now above-.500 for the first time this season and their change in fortune comes after they weathered the NBA’s toughest opening seven-game schedule to finish 3-4 before wins over the San Antonio Spurs and the Hornets on Sunday.

Five Knicks players scored in double figures, led by RJ Barrett’s 24 points and Julius Randle’s 23 points, five rebounds and five assists. Barrett finished a game-high plus-26 and shot 9-of-16 from the field and four-of-six from downtown. Randle shot 8-of-16 from the field for his third consecutive efficient shooting game after a horrid start to the season following offseason ankle surgery. Jalen Brunson finished with 20 points, and Mitchell Robinson posted a near double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds, including five on the offensive glass.

Hornets star LaMelo Ball finished with 32 points on 11-of-20 from the field, but the Knicks rendered the remainder of Charlotte’s scorers ineffective.

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau did not play Randle, Brunson or Robinson in the fourth quarter.

Barrett and starting guard Quentin Grimes played sparingly in the final period before Thibodeau completely emptied the bench with under three minutes to go in the quarter.

The load management was necessary for a team that faces the conference-favorite Celtics in the second leg of a back-to-back on Monday.

Unlike their previous Atlanta-New Orleans back-to-back that featured a time change and cost the Knicks an hour of rest in between games, the Knicks have more than 30 hours in-between tipoffs against the Hornets and Celtics.

The Knicks lost the season-opener against Boston by four in a game Randle and Brunson shot poorly from the field.

They will need their stars firing on all cylinders to keep the streak alive in Boston on Monday.