On the second night of a back-to-back in a winding road trip, New York Knicks‘ struggling wing RJ Barrett started sprinting to the basket after receiving an outlet pass from Julius Randle.
Oklahoma City Thunder’s best defender Lu Dort stood in his way.
But Barrett barreled his chest to the unsuspecting Dort, who got dislodged from his defensive stance, before protecting the ball with a behind-the-back dribble. Barrett successfully got past Dort, and the lane was suddenly wide open.
What happened next was the re-awakening of the slumbering Barrett.
With each step toward the basket, Barrett gathered all his frustrations and let it out in a roaring dunk that sparked the Knicks’ 129-119 win in the early moments of the first quarter.
“Oooohhh! That was fun! I got a couple of easy ones and had a really good start, so it was definitely easier throughout the game.”RJ Barrett postgame via MSG Network
All it took Barrett was a couple of easy ones, as New York coach Tom Thibodeau drilled in him amid the scoring slump, to break out.
Barrett finally lifted the Thunder curse that plagued him in this Knicks’ brutal West Coast trip. He completed his redemptive arc with a solid 25-point performance against the same team that held him to a season-worst four points, which led to a fourth-quarter benching at home last week.
This time, Barrett was aggressive from the get-go. He hit his first five shots, including the vicious dunk, en route to a 10-of-16 shooting night which snapped a dreary 26.3 percent shooting over his previous five games. He also sank 3 of 4 three-pointers after making only 2 of his last 25 attempts from that zone.
“The game will tell you what to do. If you’re open shoot, and [Barrett] can score. He’s not necessarily like, just a shooter. That’s the beauty of his game. He gets downhill and gets to the line. He can shoot the 3. He can finish through traffic and that just makes your game up and attack the rim. That sets everything up.”Tom Thibodeau postgame via NBA.com
Barrett scored from all angles, from 3 to pull-ups inside the arc, from layups to dunks. His last field goal –an alley-oop dunk — punctuated the emphatic Knicks win that gave them a winning record in what was initially expected to be a brutal five-game West Coast trip.
“It was a great way to end the trip. We really stayed together throughout this whole entire trip. So to end it with a win like this, it was good.”RJ Barrett postgame via MSG Network
Barrett looked defeated at times but kept his composure throughout the shooting slump, exacerbated by an illness that infiltrated the Knicks locker room on this road trip.
“His mindset and demeanor have stayed the same. You never know when he’s having an off night and when he’s having a great night. I think that’s really telling about him. He keeps that demeanor and he just stays with it. He’s been always confident.”Jalen Brunson on RJ Barrett via MSG Network
Barrett had done the easiest part of the process. Now comes the hard part — building consistency.
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