Prior to the New York Knicks’ victory over the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night, they had been experiencing somewhat of a funk. With players coming in and out of the NBA’s health and safety protocols, establishing consistency became a complex problem.
Losing power forward Julius Randle for two games provided the Knicks with a wake-up call, and likely their fans as well, who’ve been calling for Randle’s head prior to his absence.
During that two-game stretch, the Knicks were outmatched entirely, losing both games by 15 points and showcasing a little resilience with Obi Toppin taking over Randle’s minutes. Toppin performed well against Toronto, tying a career-high 19 points, but he’s a far lesser player than Randle, who showcased his brilliance against the Pacers to stifle a two-game losing streak.
After the game, head coach Tom Thibodeau raved about Julius’s return, posting 30 points and 16 rebounds over 39 minutes. Storming back from a positive Covid test in just a few days was remarkable.
“For Julius to do what he did today is just remarkable. To come out of health and safety protocols, travel and play. We had no idea what he was gonna be like. Unbelievable effort.” – Via Fred Katz of The Athletic
Randle’s vengeful return was like the end of a storybook when the hero arrives at the final moments to save the day and overwhelm the opponent with heart and energy.
However, Randle couldn’t overwhelm Indiana alone, as the Robin to his Batman stepped up to the plate and performed at a high level. RJ Barrett, who has been struggling this season, recorded 32 points on 40% shooting from three-point range, adding eight rebounds and three assists to his mark.
“I definitely feel like I’m capable…hopefully once we get back and rolling, this is what to expect from us,” Barrett said after the game.
The Knicks ended up winning by double digits against the Pacers, displaying consistency and energy throughout. Barrett scored 17 points in the first quarter alone, finishing with a game-high in points.
New York desperately needs Barrett and Randle to become their lethal pairing. They can boost this team and push them to the postseason, as their teammates will revere their work ethic and production.
It all boils down to consistency, though, and if they can stay healthy, the sky is the limit. RJ was expected to take a big year three jump after a successful sophomore campaign during Randle’s All-Star performance.
RJ is shooting just 32.9% from three-point range this season, despite hitting over 40% last year. He’s enjoyed multiple games this season with 30 points or more, but if he can do that on a more consistent basis, his stock will elevate tremendously. It is no surprise to see Randle and Barrett dominating when both are hot with the ball in their hands.