RJ Barrett is growing into a man right before our eyes.
The 21-year old Barrett delivered a brilliant all-around performance with 28 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists while Julius Randle got back to his old self, snapping out of his shooting slump to produce 24 points on 8 of 15 shooting.
Behind their 1-2 punch, the New York Knicks rolled to a wire-to-wire 110-102 win over the visiting Los Angeles Clippers Sunday at Madison Square Garden. But their victory came with a cost after Mitchell Robinson went down in the third quarter with a sprained left ankle.
Nerlens Noel stepped up for Robinson with eight points, seven rebounds, three steals, and one block in his return from a long layoff. Robinson left the game with still 9:36 remaining in the third quarter after getting hurt when Clippers’ guard Luke Kennard swiped the ball off his hands in an earlier play. Robinson was on pace to what could have been a fifth double-double in seven games before he got hurt. He left the game for good with eight points and eight rebounds.
Cam Reddish also made his Knicks debut with a quiet two points and two rebounds in more than five minutes off the bench. But there was no need to rush Reddish into the rotation with Barrett and Randle catching fire.
Barrett and Randle set the tone with 10 points each in the opening quarter and never looked back. They repeatedly foiled the Clippers’ comeback attempt.
Randle added nine rebounds and five assists to compensate for his game-high seven turnovers. Evan Fournier and Alec Burks contributed 14 and 10 points, respectively. All starters finished with a positive plus-minus. Burks returned to the starting lineup as Kemba Walker was bothered again by soreness on his left knee.
Barrett has scored in double digits in 13 straight games, overcoming an early shooting slump and a bout with stomach flu and COVID-19. The Knicks have improved to 7-2 when Barrett scores at least 25 points this season.
The scary thing is Barrett is just starting to scratch the surface.
“I don’t feel like I’ve done anything so far. That’s my mindset. I’m hungry for more. I want more for the team, but for myself, as well,” Barrett said. “If I continue to be aggressive, anything is possible.”
It’s a welcome development for the Knicks, who are currently tied for the last play-in spot with the Boston Celtics at 23-24.
Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo