Knicks’ RJ Barrett has taken insane jump in important category

new york knicks, rj barrett

While the New York Knicks fell to the Boston Celtics on Wednesday evening by just two points, but second-year player RJ Barrett had another stellar performance. Barrett finished with 29 points, connecting on 10-of-14 shots from the field, and went 6-of-6 from downtown.

Barrett has taken a significant developmental leap this year, averaging 17.5 points per game over 52 contests, compared to 14.3 in his rookie season last year. His field goal percentage has risen from .402 to.450, and the three-point percentage skyrocketed. He currently sits at .380 on the season, finishing 2019-20 at .320.

His increasing efficiency from downtown has been a major turning point for the 20-year-old guard. His defense is already considered above average, and pairing it with quality offense will make him a star in the future. I would argue he’s well on his way to being considered one of the better players in the NBA, and at his age, next season could see him finally cement himself as a premium asset.

“I don’t know if I’m surprised because I see the time he’s put into it,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said regarding his three-point production. “And when we’ve been home, he usually comes in every night to shoot and get extra shooting in. He’s really worked hard improving the shot and I think he’s gotten real comfortable behind the line. And I also think his teammates are also doing a good job looking for him. We’ve had good rim reads and a lot of spray-outs, so they’re good-rhythm 3s.”

The Knicks have a young player defining himself as a star:

Star players have a few defining qualities, and work ethic is one of them. Barrett is putting everything he has into the game of basketball, and it is clearly paying off on the court. For example, in a pivotal moment against Boston, he turned the ball over, dribbling it out of bounds. Just moments after, he returned the favor by draining a three-point shot to make up for his mistake. The resiliency and unwavering confidence are what stood out in that specific scenario, showing not only physical growth but mental.

“I just work at it,’’ Barrett said. “Going to the gym at night, the more you put into the game, the more you get out.”

Knicks endgame woes continue in Boston

knicks

The magic of the New York Knicks‘ promising start to the season is beginning to fade.

The Knicks are on a free-fall after squandering another lead and coming up short once again at crunchtime.

Marcus Smart hit the dagger—a wide-open three—with 36.4 seconds left as the Celtics came from behind and extended the Knicks’ endgame woes, 101-99, on Wednesday night at the TD Garden in Boston.

It was the Knicks’ eighth loss in 10 games decided by three points or less this season. Five of their last seven losses came down to a single possession.

New York led by seven, 80-73, with under nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. But the Celtics rallied behind Smart, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum.

After Smart’s go-ahead three-pointer, Alec Burks missed a three on the other end and got his shot blocked in the final 10 seconds that sealed the Knicks’ fate.

Smart poured in 14 of his 17 points and issued three of his nine assists in the final quarter, while Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum had seven points apiece.

Brown paced the Celtics with 32 points and 10 rebounds. Tatum added 27 and 10.

The Boston trio was too much for the Knicks, who have now lost five of their last six games to fall to eighth place in the East.

The Knicks drew a big game from RJ Barrett, who went a perfect six-for-six from beyond the arc to lead them with 29 points. But Julius Randle struggled again in the fourth despite a complete stats line of 22 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three steals, and one block.

After a scintillating third quarter where he exploded for 13 points and gave the Knicks a 73-70 lead, Randle disappeared in the final 12 minutes. Either his recent thigh injury is bothering him, or the big minutes are starting to wear him down. He remains defiant, saying he’s not bothered by anything every time the topic comes up.

But his recent struggles suggest otherwise as he came up with just two points in the fourth quarter on four shots.

Randle shot 9-for-23 overall. In four games this month, he’s just shooting 38.2 percent from the field and 30 from deep.

Rebounding also continued to be an issue for the Knicks as the Celtics crushed them, 53-39, and 16-5 on the offensive glass.

The tight game saw Boston scoring 20 second-chance points. It was the fourth time in the Knicks’ last five losses that they were beaten in the offensive rebounding.

“We felt one of the keys is rebounding. Obviously, that hurts us,” Tom Thibodeau offered his thoughts after another tough loss. “We had been a good rebounding team the whole year. We need to get back to it.”

It gets tougher for the Knicks to rebound from this tough stretch as the streaking Memphis Grizzlies, winners of their last four games, visit them in New York on Friday.

On the same night the Knicks lost to the Celtics, the Grizzlies wallopped the Atlanta Hawks, 131-113, with all their starters in double figures.

The Knicks’ starters all yielded negative net ratings in their loss in Boston.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks’ RJ Barrett responds to Anthony Edwards trash talk

new york knicks, rj barrett

The New York Knicks fell to the Brooklyn Nets on Monday evening in a hard-fought battle, and that performance was far more indicative of their quality of play than a recent loss of the Minnesota Timberwolves, arguably the worst team in the NBA. During that contest, the Knicks once again forced the ball to Julius Randle with time winding down, but it was RJ Barrett who took the last shot to win the game, subsequently missing and catching a bit of heat from Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards afterward.

Edwards made sure to leave a comment that got into RJ Barrett’s head, stating that they desperately wanted him to take the final shot, and everything worked out in their favor.

“Gladly RJ caught it and if he made the shot, we would’ve lived with it,” Timberwolves rookie Anthony Edwards said. “Because that’s who we wanted taking the shot. We didn’t want anyone else taking it.”

Clearly, they believe Barrett is incapable of rising to the occasion and hitting big shots, but I would argue he’s well on his way to being a quality NBA player and hasn’t even scratched the surface.

Barrett isn’t one to take things personally, but this one seemed to get to him, utilizing a rare tweet to expressed his confusion in Edward’s comments.

“I thought it was funny,” Barrett said. “You’re right: I don’t normally tweet. I don’t know what it was about this one. I just felt like this one was an OK scenario to laugh at.”

This season, RJ is averaging 17.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 3.0 assists on .445 shooting from the field. His three-pointer has taken a massive step forward, hitting on .359% compared to .320% in 2019. At 20 years old, he has taken an extensive developmental leap this year, showing flashes of stardom.

Comparably, Edwards is in his rookie season at 19 years old, averaging 17.6 points and .394 shooting from the field. There is a primary difference between the two, Barrett is an aggressive defender who is rounding out his game in year two while Edwards is focusing on offensive contributions. I believe that RJ has a bright future ahead of him, especially with the Knicks as a hopeful star player.

Clearly, opponents are trying to get into his head, but RJ is more worried about playing basketball at a high level than being concerned with trash talk.

Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards takes ‘shot’ at Knicks’ RJ Barrett

Collapse, failure, disappointment. Those are three words describing the New York Knicks’ performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday evening. New York regularly dominated bad teams prior to losing to Minnesota, falling by just one point, bringing up a problem that has plagued the team this season. While the Knicks play suffocating defense, their offense has been lackluster, and their ability to hit clutch shots at the end of games is non-existent.

Even All-Star Julius Randle has struggled to put away buckets to finish off games, but Minnesota, who has won just 12 games this season, had a plan in mind to beat a Knicks team who previously lost a tough matchup against the Miami Heat.

The Knicks had the final possession of the game, an opportunity to win a close one and extract a victory against a team that had won 11 games prior to their win over New York. Minnesota small forward Anthony Edwards made an interesting statement after the game, indicating they desperately wanted RJ Barrett to be the one with the final shot.

“We told Jaden [McDaniels] try not let Randle catch the ball, we’re going to make someone else beat us,” Edwards after the game. “Gladly RJ caught it and if he made the shot, we would’ve lived with it. Because that’s who we wanted taking the shot. We didn’t want anyone else taking it.”

The Knicks need a clutch shooter:

The Timberwolves got the ball in the hands of RJ, who threw up a shot on a step-back jumper that nearly air-balled. While Barrett was fantastic in the game, scoring 23 points and hitting on 8-of-17 shots and 3-of-4 from downtown, entrusting him with the final bullet was always optimistic.

Barrett is better when driving to the rim, utilizing his fantastic speed and strength to outmuscle defenders. Despite hitting on 75% of his three-point attempts in the game, he’s not an elite shooter. The Timberwolves wanted to keep the ball away from Randle, who was shooting over 50% and is one of the game’s best baseline shooters.

Ultimately, this loss brings up a major problem, the Knicks’ inability to hit clutch shots. Just recently, they lost to the 76ers twice and the Brooklyn Nets on close-possession games, and eventually, the Knicks will have to add a player who has ice in his veins.

It could end up in Barrett or even rookie Immanuel Quickley one day, but they can’t wait around to find out if they want to be a playoff-contending squad.

Knicks defy Vegas odds after gritty comeback over Wizards

knicks, rj barrett

The New York Knicks were not supposed to be winning. They were pegged to be tanking.

Las Vegas oddsmakers projected them to be just a 22.5-win team this season. But here they are, defying odds and pulling out a gut-wrenching victory in a game they had no business winning after an awful start.

The Knicks overcame a 17-point second-half deficit to stun the Washington Wizards, 106-102, Thursday night at The Garden.

Their 23rd win of the season enabled them to climb to fifth in the Eastern Conference.

Earlier in the day, the Knicks front office stood pat at the trade deadline and only made one minor move, dealing away seldom-used Austin Rivers and Iggy Brazdeikis.

Team president Leon Rose stuck to their plan and showed restraint, choosing stability and chemistry.

Tom Thibodeau praised the move and said he loves the team that they have.

“Their willingness to commit to play for each other, sacrifice to put the team first, come in every day. We know we have a long way to go. It will require more commitment and more sacrifices, and more fight because you can see how bunched everyone is. You need some good fortune, but you also need the willingness to play as a team,” Thibodeau said before the game. “This team has demonstrated that all year and so we want to continue to build and see where we can go.”

The Knicks showed plenty of fight in this game. They overhauled a huge deficit, playing for each other, and played as a team in the final 15 minutes.

With All-Star Julius Randle looked hurt and struggling, sophomore RJ Barrett stepped up. He typified the Knicks’ grittiness barreling his way to 19 points in the second half, including a key three-point play in the fourth quarter over Washington’s All-Star starter Bradley Beal. Fired up, he flexed his muscle as New York tied the game at 91-apiece.

The Knicks stared at a 16-point deficit, 78-62, with 2:32 left in the third quarter. They outscored the Wizards, 44-22, the rest of the way.

Alec Burks had his fourth consecutive game with at least 20 points. He strung up 15 in the dizzying Knicks run in the final period and led the team with 27 points and six rebounds.

The Knicks shot 12-for-20 in the fourth quarter after an atrocious 30 percent shooting through the first three quarters.

Barrett was only 2-for-12 in the first half, but he came alive in the second half, burying 5 of his last 10 shots. The 20-year old wing finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and three steals.

They turned their defense into offense.

After a torrid 54 percent shooting in the first half, the Knicks held the Wizards to 39 percent in the last two quarters.

Russell Westbrook was spooked in the second half. He went 0-for-8 before fouling out and ended up at the wrong end of history. He is the first player across the past 25 seasons to go 0-8 or worse from the floor and have 6 personal fouls in any half, according to ESPN Stats and Info.

Westbrook finished with just 13 points after scoring nine in the first half. Beal led the Wizards with 26 points. Japanese forward Rui Hachimura scored 19, but only two in the fourth quarter.

Randle, who hurt his right quadriceps in a loose ball collision, had an off night. The All-Star forward only scored 13 points on 5-for-16 shooting. But he came through when it mattered, drilling two clutch baseline jumpers that kept the Wizards at bay.

The Knicks played without Nerlens Noel (sore right shoulder) and Reggie Bullock (sprained right ankle). It hurt Thibodeau’s rotation as the starters came out flat.

The starting backcourt of Elfrid Payton and Frank Ntilikina combined to shoot 3-for-10 from the field and had zero assists.

Thibodeau found good fortune from his bench.

Burks led the Knicks’ second unit that outscored the Wizards bench, 55-19.

Rookie Immanuel Quickley added 16 points. Taj Gibson stepped in and anchored the Knicks defense in the second half. The 35-year old veteran tallied 10 points, eight boards, and two blocks. His inspired play kept Mitchell Robinson on the bench. Robinson got six points, seven boards, and two blocks but had the team’s second-worst net rating with minus-14. Payton was the worst with a minus-15.

The Knicks lottery pick Obi Toppin had another scoreless outing, but his two steals and one block energized the team in their spirited second-half rally.

It was the kind of effort that made Thibodeau fall in love with this group. This gritty win once again validated the Knicks leadership’s faith in them.

“It’s great to understand the front office has confidence in us,’’ Gibson said. “But we got to continue to grow. It was a hard-fought win that showed the character of our team.”

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Thibodeau, Randle mad after late costly call sinks Knicks

New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau kept it short while Julius Randle spewed fire after their heartbreaking 101-100 overtime loss Sunday night at The Garden to the Philadelphia 76ers.

“They said we didn’t challenge. Two officials. Tough calls. That’s all I’m going to say about it,” Thibodeau said.

Thibodeau was visibly furious after he was denied to challenge the loose ball foul called on Julius Randle that led to Tobias Harris’ game-winning free throws with 5.3 seconds left in the overtime.

Harris redeemed himself from missing two crucial free throws late in the regulation.

The Knicks still had a chance to win, but Randle’s tough jumper rimmed out at the buzzer.

Randle immediately vented his ire on the officials — only two of them as the third referee Dannica Mosher was a late scratch due to health and safety protocols.

“Blown call by the officials. Not enough contact for them to call the play. Nerlens (Noel), clearly he had possession. After all the fouling and everything that was going on for them to call that and decide the game is f—ing ridiculous. It’s ridiculous! They’ve got to do a better job. There are too many games like this,” Randle said in an explosive postgame interview.

The replays, though, showed Randle slightly shoved Harris with his hands caught clinging to the jersey.

It was the Knicks’ second straight tough defeat against the 76ers this week. Harris, a Long Island native, was also the Knicks’ tormentor in their 99-96 loss earlier this week in Philadelphia.

Randle’s costly foul failed to preserve his heroics in the regulation. The Knicks’ All-Star buried a corner three with 6.4 seconds left to force the overtime.

Alec Burks, who flubbed a fastbreak layup in the fourth quarter, engaged Danny Green in a wild shootout in the extra period.

The Knicks appeared to be in control when they opened a four-point lead, 100-96, on Reggie Bullock’s three with 70 seconds left.

But Harris bailed Philadelphia (30-13) out of trouble, scoring his team’s last five points. The narrow win kept the 76ers in the solo top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Mitchell Robinson returned after missing the Knicks’ last 15 games with a fractured hand. He appeared to be fine, collecting four points—including a putback slam— and six rebounds until he rolled his ankle in the second half. The Knicks’ young center played 17 minutes off the bench.

Immanuel Quickley also came back after a one-game absence and started anew with Derrick Rose (health and safety protocols) and Elfrid Payton (hamstring) still out. But Quickley was rusty as he missed his first five shots and the Knicks trailed by double digits early on.

Philadelphia built its largest lead, 43-29, in the second quarter. Then Quickley came alive. The rookie guard nailed two triples in a 13-0 New York run to end the first half only down by one, 43-42.

Burks scored 20 points off the bench, tallying 16 of them in the fourth quarter and overtime. RJ Barrett had 19 and eight boards while Nerlens Noel also stepped up for the Knicks with a season-high 13 points and 10 rebounds.

But all their efforts went down the drain.

The Knicks slipped to 21-22 and will host the lowly Washington Wizards (15-26), losers of eight of their last 10 games, on Tuesday and Thursday at home.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks suffer another heartbreaker but Thibodeau finds silver linings

Julius Randle missed his last seven attempts. RJ Barrett muffed a crucial wide-open, 10-foot fadeaway. Immanuel Quickley bricked a potential game-tying three-pointer.

A banged up and short-handed New York Knicks team faded down the stretch as the Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers improved to 18-3 at home with a come-from-behind 99-96 win at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night.

Randle survived a nasty fall in the second half while Quickley went back to the locker room to retape a tweaked ankle. But they were running on fumes and didn’t have the usual fire late in the game to drag the Knicks to the finish line.

Long Island’s Tobias Harris scored six of his game-high 30 points inside the final 2:26 to lift the 76ers over the Knicks, who just came from an emotionally-charged loss in Brooklyn.

Playing on the last night of a back-to-back schedule against the East’s top two teams, the Knicks actually had the game in control for the most part until midway through the fourth quarter.

After Randle gave the Knicks a 10-point lead, 71-61, with 7:57 remaining in the third quarter, fatigue took its toll. Randle scored only on one free throw the rest of the way.

The Knicks All-Star finished with 19 points, 15 rebounds, and eight assists but didn’t have the legs to carry the team to the finish line.

Up by nine heading into the final quarter, the Knicks came up with only 14 points, four in the last 3:18 that did them in.

Still without their key players Mitchell Robinson (broken hand), Elfrid Payton (hamstring injury), and Derrick Rose (health and safety protocols), Tom Thibodeau was forced to play Randle and Barrett heavy minutes.

Randle played in the 40s in both losses against the Nets and the 76ers.

Barrett had 17 points on just 7-for-17 shooting in 41 minutes against Ben Simmons and the 76ers.

Quickley scored 13 points in his second straight start but only hit 1-for-5 from deep. His last miss came in the final 12.8 seconds, with the Knicks trailing by three.

Despite going 1-3 in the tough road trip, Tom Thibodeau was consoled by the fact that they dragged the top two teams in the East — Philadelphia, and Brooklyn — down to the last possession.

“We’re short-handed. That’s part of it,” Thibodeau said. “Whenever one guy goes out, it’s an opportunity for another guy to step in. Sometimes you find some things that can be very good for the team. I think taking a look at the Brooklyn game and this game, there were a lot of good things to take from it, and obviously, we fell short in the end. It shows us the work necessary for us to get over the hump. And we have to continue to work.”

Quickley stepped up and averaged 17 points and 2.5 assists as a starter. Frank Ntilikina, though, failed to capitalize on the opportunity as he went scoreless on both games. But to Ntilikina’s credit, he had his moments on the defensive end, particularly in the fourth quarter against the Nets.

Birthday boy Reggie Bullock, who turned 30 on Tuesday, had another strong outing with 12 points but had a crucial error when he stepped out of bounds on a three-point attempt.

Alec Burks and Taj Gibson combined for 29 points off the bench.

The Knicks head home and will host four games at the Madison Square Garden, beginning with the Orlando Magic on Thursday.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Anti-climactic ending in Atlantic: Knicks’ comeback falls short in Nets’ nest

New York Knicks, Immanuel Quickley

It was an enthralling match with the trappings of a high-stakes playoff game where the stranglehold of a basketball city so desperate to get back to NBA relevance hung in the balance.

It was the old power New York Knicks against the new order Brooklyn Nets in Atlantic Avenue.

In the end, a controversial call failed to give it a fitting finish as the Nets escaped with a 117-112 win on Monday night.

Perhaps this would be the start of a heated rivalry between the two resurgent New York teams.

Kyrie Irving saved the Nets from a complete meltdown with a swipe to Julius Randle’s three-point attempt to send the game into overtime. Randle went down with the ball and dribbled that earned him a traveling call.

It was an anti-climatic finish to a riveting game that had its ebb and flow.

The Nets came into the game the heavy favorites even without arguably their best player, Kevin Durant. They still had two of the best guards in the league in Irving and James Harden.

The Knicks tried to counter the Nets’ firepower by inserting the streak shooting rookie Immanuel Quickley into the starting lineup. For a while, it worked as the Knicks, behind Reggie Bullock’s red-hot shooting, led by seven early on, 18-11.

But it was just a matter of time before the Nets’ overwhelming talent took over the game. They extended a five-point lead to 17, 49-32, on a back-breaking 14-2 run at the onset of the second quarter. The Knicks’ second-unit offense suffered without Quickley. Frank Ntilikina continued to struggle, coming up empty in five attempts.

Brooklyn was led by as many as 18 and appeared cruising to an easy win, an encore of its 116-109 win at The Garden on the day the Nets completed the blockbuster Harden trade.

Harden had his first taste of the New York rivalry and quickly stamped his signature. He finished with his 10th triple-double (21 points, 15 rebounds, and 15 assists) of the season and became the first Nets player to register a triple-double with at least 15 points, 15 rebounds, and 15 assists.

“The New York fans, especially the Knicks fans, you can hear them. I don’t know how many fans we have in the building in total, but you heard a lot of Knicks fans. We understand the tradition, but I’m just happy to be part of the rivalry,” Harden said.

He would hear more of them once the arenas would welcome back fans at full capacity. But despite having only 1,600 people allowed for the game, the Knicks fans led by celebrity Spike Lee engulfed the Barclays Center, especially during the fourth quarter.

But they were silent for much part of the game when the Nets’ offense was humming.

Irving, who Blake Griffin described in his pre-game interview as a “creative scorer,” scored in a variety of ways — pull-up jumper, crossover, and stepback jumper, nasty drives, three-pointers with hand on his face.

The Knicks tried but could not contain Irving, the New Jersey native and a self-confessed Nets fan growing up. He led the Nets with 34 points on efficient 13-of-18 shooting.

The Knicks, though, did not back down from the challenge. They showed plenty of fight, and their grittiness enabled them to storm back from an 18-point third-quarter deficit and came within a three-point basket from forcing overtime.

Quickley, the rookie sensation out of Kentucky, did not disappoint in his first NBA career start. He had 21 points but fell silent in the fourth quarter.

It didn’t matter as Randle found his rhythm late, pouring in 12 points in the Knicks’ late fightback. He was furious after the traveling call and had to be restrained by his teammates, the Knicks coaching staff, and even William Wesley, the team’s executive vice president.

Randle tried to match Irving and Harden’s star power during crunch time, but his effort went down the drain with that call. Randle collected 33 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, and three steals.

Barrett ended up with 23 points, six rebounds, and four assists after a rough start to the game. Bullock and Alec Burks had 19 and 12, respectively, combining for seven of the Knicks’ 15 triples.

After surviving the Knicks’ blistering start, the Nets’ supercharged offense overwhelmed the Knicks’ defense. Brooklyn shot 70 percent in the first quarter to take a 35-30 lead after being down by seven. The Nets ended up with 58 percent, still far from Tom Thibodeau’s liking.

If the Nets were silky-smooth on offense, the Knicks lived to fight with their grittiness that earned them 27 trips at the line. They hit 24 free throws that helped them hang with the Nets.

Their defense was air-tight in the closing moments, forcing two jump balls in the final 10.8 seconds of the game.

All the Knicks wanted was a shot at winning the game. They had their chances but couldn’t capitalize. And in the end, the breaks of the game didn’t go Manhattan’s way.

On the flip side, for all the talks that the Nets are just all offense, they leaned on defense to pull out this win. Irving, despite the controversial call, took care of business and made a game-winning defensive stop.

Crew chief Scott Foster explained after the game that it was the correct call.

“The defender (Irving) was deemed to touch the ball but not cause it to be dislodged or loose. Upon that, when the player (Randle) alights, he cannot purposely drop the ball or dribble the ball or be first to touch after he dropped the ball,” Foster said.

The Brooklyn franchise collected stars to establish a new order and try to end a New York tradition.

But not so fast.

The Knicks won’t give up their grip on the city without a fight. Monday night’s game was a testament.

The close call was the Nets’ 100th win over the Knicks, who hold a slim one-win edge in their all-time head-to-head matchups. The Nets could tie it with a regular season-sweep on April 5.

Brooklyn has a firm grip of the second spot in the East with a 27-13 record, half a game behind Philadelphia, after extending their winning streak to five.

The Knicks slipped to 20-2, still good for seventh place in the East.

A Knicks-Nets playoff matchup should be a perfect treat for New York fans.

But for that to happen, the Knicks should continue to defy the odds.

They will try to close out the tough four-game road trip to start the second half with a victory in Philadephia against the Sixers, the current best team in the East.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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

Report: Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau was keen on flipping RJ Barrett/Mitchell Robinson for established veterans

New York Knicks, RJ Barrett

The New York Knicks have taken a different shape this season under head coach Tom Thibodeau, playing incredible defense and showing a bit more offensive efficiency than in previous seasons. Players like Julius Randle are having career years under this new system, as the veteran power forward is averaging 23.2 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 5.5 assists, all career highs.

Acquiring a star player to pair with Randle might be in the Knicks’ best interest, and with the March 25 trade deadline coming up, we could see a move in the near future. However, Thibodeau was keen on moving some of the younger pieces for established veterans, per a report from the New York Post.

From Yaron Weitzman at the New York Post:

[Thibodeau] pleaded for [GM Leon] Rose to offer long-term deals to free agents such as Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris and Bogdan Bogdanovic. He wanted to trade for Derrick Rose, a longtime favorite of his. He thought RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson could potentially be flipped for seasoned veterans. Initially, he was hardly sold on Julius Randle, according to a colleague.

So far this season, RJ Barrett is averaging 16.5 points, six rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game. His field-goal percentage has jumped a significant amount from .402 in his rookie season to .443 this campaign.

The New York Knicks have something in RJ, and it’s not a trade piece:

At just 20 years old, he’s showing that he can be a force on offense but needs to improve his defense and become a bit more aggressive. I view Barrett as a long-term solution for this team and not a trade piece, given his youth and the step he took this season under Thibodeau. With solid teammates around him, they should continue giving him action.

Eventually, the Knicks will add a premium player to their starting five, and Barrett will likely benefit from his presence. Randle has assisted in Barrett’s growth exponentially, and with New York becoming a more desirable destination for star players, I believe it will only benefit the youngster.

As for Mitchell Robinson, he has just one more season left on his contract before he will require an extension. Robinson is currently out with a fractured hand, and while he’s not an offensive force, he’s one of the best shot-blockers in the NBA.

Considering how much the Knicks have gotten out of Nerlens Noel, I believe Robinson is the more expendable of the two, but I believe both have long-term futures on the Knicks and have shown enough to be retained.