What a difference a week makes.
Just last week, RJ Barrett was celebrated as he redeemed himself from early shooting struggles by hitting a clutch three-pointer and two free throws in overtime that helped the New York Knicks take down the league-leading Boston Celtics on the road.
On Tuesday night, Barrett didn’t get a chance to replicate those heroics at home during the Knicks’ overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
New York coach Tom Thibodeau took him out for good with still 6:51 left in the regulation. The 22-year-old former third overall pick did not play in the final 11:51, including overtime.
Thibodeau went with Immanuel Quickley, who played 39 minutes, including 17 straight from fourth quarter to overtime.
The smaller but quicker Quickley produced 19 points and eight assists off the bench and netted a positive plus-minus (+3). In contrast, Barrett struggled with his shot as he bled for 13 points on 5 of 13 attempts and was a minus-6 when he was on the floor.
“We were just looking for our group to get going. The group that was out there was what we went with,” Thibodeau said of his decision without going into details.
When pressed further, Thibodeau finally gave a clue on why he stuck with Quickley and Quentin Grimes over Barrett down the stretch.
“Just because of what [the Lakers] had going on off the dribble,” Thibodeau said. “I think that was probably the quickness and speed they had and them going off the dribble.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Lakers guard Russell Westbrook blew by Barrett for a wide-open lane to the basket.
Westbrook went 2 of 3 against Barrett, while Rui Hachimura shot 3 of 5 against him, all on jumpers.
Moments after the Westbrook blowby, Barrett lost his dribble in front of Troy Brown, Jr. resulting into a turnover.
To be fair to Barrett, Westbrook went 4 for 5 against Quickley’s defense, including 1 of 2 on blowbys. After his early shooting struggles, Barrett was a perfect 3 for 3 in the fourth quarter before getting benched.
But overall, Quickley shot the ball better than Barrett, connecting on 6 of 12 shots.
The Knicks’ starting wing missed all of his three-point attempts. Quickley went 2 for 6 from downtown.
Barrett shunned the media after the game, visibly frustrated with the Knicks’ 25th loss in 52 games and perhaps the benching.
Barrett once touted that he wanted to become an elite two-way player in the league. But so far, it isn’t happening. Between his struggles on offense and defense, it’s hard to pick which one Barrett should have to improve on to live up to the most lucrative deal the Knicks have ever doled out.
After this debacle, we’ll see what kind of stuff Barrett is made of.
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