With a renewed emphasis on defense, the New York Knicks have posted three consecutive double-digit wins, a trend they hope continues Sunday night when they host the surging Sacramento Kings.

The Knicks faced a reckoning last weekend when they allowed an embarrassing 41 points in the third quarter of a 21-point home loss to the Dallas Mavericks. But since that terrible outing – their fourth loss in a five-game stretch in which they allowed an average of 120 points a game – the Knicks have played excellent defense and are back to .500 for the first time in nearly a month.

New York has beaten Cleveland, Atlanta, and Charlotte by a combined 56 points while allowing 90.7 points per game. In those games, opponents are shooting 38.9 percent and 20.6 percent from 3-point range.

“It’s been great,” New York forward Julius Randle said of a defense that has not allowed more than 31 points in its past 12 quarters. “That’s really why we’re winning games.

“We’ve had no trouble scoring points all year, but the more our defense locks in and plays like that, the more we’ll have chances to win games and go on streaks.”

The Knicks won their third straight by getting 33 points from Randle in Friday’s 121-102 win at Charlotte. R.J. Barrett added 26 as the Knicks survived Jalen Brunson shooting 3-of-13 after he was 2-of-14 Wednesday. Randle poured in 34 in Wednesday’s 113-89 rout of Atlanta.

“Every game the other team has been having a low-scoring game and that has been helping us a lot,” Barrett said.

Sacramento started out by dropping six of its first nine games but has turned it around quickly by going 11-4 in its past 15.

Like the Knicks, the Kings are coming off a strong defensive effort in Friday’s 106-95 win at Cleveland. Sacramento won for the first time in six games when scoring under 110 points thanks to a defense that allowed its fewest points of the season.

The Kings were particularly effective in the fourth quarter when they outscored Cleveland 27-15 by holding the Cavaliers to 5-for-17 shooting and forcing eight turnovers. Sacramento scored the game’s final 19 points.

“That was a big, big, big-time win for us,” Kings coach Mike Brown said. “When you get a win like that on the road, that’s a sign you have a really good team. Now, I hope I’m not jumping the gun on that, but this was my favorite game of the season.”

Sacramento earned its latest win despite leading scorer De’Aaron Fox sitting out with a sore right foot. Fox, who is shooting 38.2 percent (39-of-102) over his past seven games, is day-to-day.

If Fox sits again, Davion Mitchell would get the start after playing 33 minutes. Mitchell was the lone starter not to reach double figures as Harrison Barnes scored 20, Kevin Hueter contributed 19 while Domantas Sabonis added 18 and 18 rebounds.

“It was just us getting stops and playing with poise,” Barnes said after the Kings bounced back from a 126-113 loss in Milwaukee two nights earlier. “Late in the fourth, we did a good job getting good looks and were able to capitalize.”

–Field Level Media