NEW YORK — The Knicks’ longest winning streak in seven years was seconds away from ending and the New Orleans Pelicans were told what to do to stop it.
They didn’t follow instructions, and a few minutes later the Knicks were still rolling right along.
Julius Randle had 33 points and 10 assists, Derrick Rose made huge plays all over the court to spark New York’s streak-saving finish and the Knicks beat the Pelicans 122-112 in overtime on Sunday for their sixth consecutive victory.
“I mean I haven’t had this feeling in a long time, let alone be on a winning streak,” Rose said. “So I’m grateful to be in this situation.”
Rose scored 23 points. He had the assist on Reggie Bullock‘s 3-pointer with 2.3 seconds left in regulation, blocked a last shot by the Pelicans that would’ve won it and then opened overtime with a steal and layup to give New York the lead for good.
The shot that kept us alive. pic.twitter.com/a1ung5uVzS
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) April 18, 2021
Most of that wouldn’t have been possible if the Pelicans had first listened to Stan Van Gundy’s plan to foul intentionally with a three-point lead, or if once they didn’t, Lonzo Ball hadn’t cheated off Bullock to help on a driving Rose when a layup wouldn’t have hurt.
“We deserved to lose. When you do that, you deserve to lose,” Van Gundy said.
“I don’t care if you’re a senior in high school, you can execute what we were supposed to be doing with 7.8 seconds to go. So no excuse whatsoever.”
The Knicks controlled the extra period from there to extend their longest winning streak since an eight-game run in 2013-14. New York (31-27) entered play sixth in the Eastern Conference, in good shape for its first playoff berth since winning the Atlantic Division in 2013.
“We didn’t play great in the second half, but we found a way to win the game,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said.
Zion Williamson had 34 points and nine rebounds in his first career game at Madison Square Garden, but the Knicks beat the Pelicans for the second time this week.
Eric Bledsoe scored 20 of his 22 points after halftime for the Pelicans, who came back from a 13-point halftime deficit and seemingly had the game under control late in the fourth quarter.
The Pelicans scored seven straight after the game was tied at 92 with under 5 minutes left in regulation, and they led by six after a basket by Bledsoe with 1:48 to play.
But Rose made a 3-pointer to start the rally and then set up the tying one to finish it. Both Williamson and Bledsoe confirmed that the Pelicans were aware of the instructions to foul after the Knicks inbounded the ball trailing by three.
Williamson didn’t make his first basket until 3.9 seconds remained in the first quarter for a 25-21 lead. He then got going quickly in the second, catching an alley-oop pass that Ball threw from just inside midcourt for a dunk that made it 31-26.
That was the Pelicans’ last highlight for a while. New York answered that basket with a 17-2 surge to make it 43-33, pushed the lead to 15 later in the period and got 16 points from Randle in the quarter to take a 57-44 advantage at halftime.
New Orleans bounced back nicely to forge a 79-all tie going to the final quarter after Williamson slammed down another lob on the fast break with 28 seconds to go.
Williamson played at MSG while at Duke but never got the chance as a rookie, as the overall No. 1 draft pick was still injured when the Pelicans visited last season.
“I love this atmosphere,” he said with a smile. “Whether they’re cheering for you or whether they’re booing for you, it’s amazing. Honestly I think outside of New Orleans obviously, I think this might be my favorite place to play.”
Randle had his fourth consecutive 30-point game, the first Knicks player to do that since Carmelo Anthony in February 2014. Included in that run was a 32-point performance in the 116-106 victory in New Orleans on Wednesday, followed by 44 to tie his season high on Friday in Dallas.