Knicks: Fit-again RJ Barrett returns to routine and gets rhythm back

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RJ Barrett returned to his old routine of extra shooting at night, and his shots started to fall again.

Barrett snapped out of his shooting funk and spurred the New York Knicks to get back on track with a 121-109 win over San Antonio Spurs Tuesday night on the road.

The win ended a three-game slide as the Knicks improved to 7-4 on the road. They returned to .500 with an even 12-12 record.

Barrett had a lot to do with it.

After a string of five cold-shooting games, Barrett fired a game-high 32 points built around a career-high seven three-pointers. He was aggressive from the opening tip with no signs of what he described as an annoying stomach bug that kept him out of the gym for several days.

“I was really down for a couple of weeks. I’m just feeling better now, being able to get back to the gym. It was great, and then to have a game like today, it felt really good,” Barrett said.

After the Knicks’ road win in Atlanta 12 days ago, Barrett revealed he started to get sick and had to throw up multiple days. He tried to give it a go in Brooklyn three nights later, but he did not last past nine minutes as he went back and forth to the locker room to throw up. Barrett missed the next game (against Chicago at home), his first DNP since his rookie year.

New York coach Tom Thibodeau, whose Saturday comments were taken out of context and became the talk of the town, described Barrett as terrific against the Spurs. The Knicks’ third-year wing scattered 19 points in the first half and made his first seven shots from downtown.

“He’s feeling better, so we start with that,” Thibodeau said. “He was knocked down pretty good and not feeling well. He’s back in the gym, putting in a lot of extra work. He’s grooving his shot. When he grooves his shot, we know he’s going to make it. It’s really that simple.”

It was Barrett’s third 30-point game in his career, and the Knicks are 3-0 in those games. His hot shooting rubbed off on the whole team. The Knicks shot 18 of 38 from the three-point zone.

The 21-year old Barrett said he did some extra shooting in the gym with a couple of his teammates on the eve of the match upon landing in San Antonio.

“I think you get into a rhythm by your routine. When your routine is a little off, you’re trying to figure it out. So just getting into that consistent routine every day. That’s how you get it done,” he said.

He was in rhythm all night. With the Spurs’ defense focused on Julius Randle, Barrett took over. The Knicks’ third-year wing went 7 for 12 from the floor in the first half and 4 for 8 in the second half.

“I think the defense was really focused on Julius a lot. They’re doubling him every time he had the ball, and we just moved it, and I was able to knock them down,” Barrett said.

It wasn’t only Barrett who had a redemption game. Mitchell Robinson played with an edge after his demotion to the bench.

The 23-year old Knicks center collected his fourth double-double of the season. He finished with 11 points, 14 rebounds, two steals, and three blocks in just 22 minutes.

Another lineup shakeup bore fruit for the Knicks.

“Today, it worked,” Barrett said. “We’ll see how it is moving forward, but whoever starts and come off the bench, we’re rocking with it.”

Barrett is hopeful they could carry the momentum Wednesday night against the Indiana Pacers in the second night of a back-to-back set on the road.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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