RJ Barrett’s career game propels Knicks back over .500

Coming off their worst game of the season, the New York Knicks got off to a slow start against a team missing their leading scorer.

But RJ Barrett had seen enough and went on to drop a career-high 32 points in a much-needed rebound win. The Knicks got their acts together in the last three quarters to obliterate Oklahoma City Thunder, 119-97, on Saturday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Barrett had 13 in the third quarter, where the Knicks started to pull away. He shot 12-of-21 with three triples and added five rebounds, three assists, and three steals in a complete performance.

The Knicks also drew inspired performances from Julius Randle and Immanuel Quickley.

Randle also bounced back from a season-low seven points in Milwaukee with his second triple-double of the season (26 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists). He was the first Knick to have multiple triple-doubles in a season since Mark Jackson in 1988-89.

Quickley came off the bench and took over the point guard chores from the ineffective Frank Ntilikina, who started but played only seven minutes. The Knicks were still missing Derrick Rose (health and safety protocols) though Empire Sports Media has learned that he’s also dealing with losing a close friend. A source familiar with the situation said Rose attended the funeral of Langston Hampton, the younger brother of his best friend and personal assistant Randall Hampton.

Elfrid, Payton was also a late scratch with a hamstring injury.

The backcourt pairing of Quickley and Barrett in the second half presided over the Knicks’ breakaway combining for 22 of New York’s 32 third-quarter points.

The Thunder played without their leading scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with a quad injury. But their starting unit, composed of two rookies, two sophomores, and Al Horford, jumped to an early big lead.

The Knicks’ low energy from Milwaukee seemed to have carried over in a sloppy start as they allowed the Thunder to shoot 71 percent and trailed by as many as 11.

“I thought we responded well after that. I thought we played strong in the second half, our willingness to share the ball. Once our defense got it going, it got us on the open floor,” Tom Thibodeau said.

After issuing only two assists in the first quarter, the Knicks finished with 22, and more importantly, their defense held the Thunder to just 37 percent shooting the rest of the way.

Alec Burks also had 15 points off the bench while Reggie Bullock hit four threes and finished with 14 for the Knicks, who improved to 20-19.

The win came at a critical time as the Knicks are about to wind up their road trip with back-to-back tough games against the Eastern Conference’s top two teams—Brooklyn Nets on Monday and the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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