Knicks 1-2 punch KOs stunned Grizzlies in wild OT comeback

Alder Almo

The Memphis Grizzlies contained the New York Knicks’ 1-2 punch for the first three quarters.

But Julius Randle and RJ Barrett came through with the knockout blows in the end as the Knicks pulled off a stunning comeback win, 133-129, in overtime on Friday night at The Garden.

Barrett scored a combined 15 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.

He hit three pressure-packed free throws in the final 37 seconds and his barrelling layup against Ja Morant with 8.8 seconds left in regulation forced the overtime. Then with 1:15 remaining in the extra session and the game tied at 124, he knocked down the go-ahead three-pointer off a Randle kick-out pass.

“That’s winning basketball. You force the defense to collapse and hit the open man,” Tom Thibodeau said of the game’s biggest play that has become more frequent since the All-Star break.

Barrett’s clutch baskets came more than a week since Timberwolves rookie Anthony Edwards dissed him for missing a potential game-winner in Minnesota.

Barrett said in response that he couldn’t wait for the next chance to take another last-second shot.

He made sure not to blow it tonight.

“It always comes back around,” Barrett said. “We’ve been playing our butt off the past couple of games. It’s been close games, and today we were able to get this one. It just feels good to know we’re doing the right thing, keep working hard and keep working together, and it will pay off.”

Randle, who didn’t score his first field goal until the 3:16 mark in the third quarter, finished the game strong.

After going 1-for-7 through the first three quarters, Randle made three of his last five shots. He collected 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists for his fifth triple-double of the season.

It was a much-needed win for the Knicks after losing five of their last six games, with three of those losses decided by two points or less.

For three-fourths of the way, it appeared the Knicks wouldn’t break the slump as they stared at a 13-point deficit with 6:10 left in the fourth quarter.

“We needed it bad. This is the way to break out of that little slump or whatever you want to call it,” Randle said. “Guys stepped up. This is how we had to get out of it.”

Alec Burks, Derrick Rose, and Immanuel Quickley combined for 58 points off the bench as they kept the Knicks in the game when their 1-2 punch was struggling.

New York drew 72 points from its bench while Memphis could only cough up 35.

“The bench came in and gave us a big lift,” Thibodeau said. “Memphis has been playing well in their last 10 games, and we had to fight the whole game just to where we got the position to win. That’s what I like about the team. I thought our fight was terrific, the perseverance, and in the end, we made things go our way.”

It was a one-sided slugfest at the start, with the Grizzlies leading by as many as 15. The Knicks had to scrap and claw their way back behind their bench that played more minutes than the starters save for Randle and Barrett.

Rose did most of the damage in the first half, scoring 13 of his 19 points in his most productive performance since the trade.

Quickley crushed the rookie wall with 20 points and four triples. He’s been on a slump, shooting just 31 percent in his previous seven games. He sank 7-of-12 tonight.

Burks added 19 points, nine in the overtime.

After losing the last two games on the offensive glass, the Knicks were locked in on crashing the boards.

The Grizzlies came into the game as the second-best offensive rebounding team in the league. And the Knicks did a good job keeping them away from the glass.

New York won the battle of the boards, 48-43, and had more offensive rebounds, 11-10. The Knicks ended up with two more second-chance points than the Grizzlies.

Taj Gibson was the Knicks’ unsung hero. The 35-year old veteran center played an almost no-relief job in the fourth quarter and kept Jonas Valanciunas from the glass. Valanciunas finished with 14 rebounds but only had one in the entire fourth quarter.

Gibson chipped in six points and eight boards, five from the offensive glass, before fouling out.

The Knicks improved to 26-27 overall and 15-10 at home, with eight of their next 10 games at The Garden.

On the other hand, the Grizzlies saw their four-game winning streak came to an end despite all their starters scoring in double figures led by Morant’s 26 points.

The Knicks will host the shorthanded Toronto Raptors on Sunday.

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