RJ Barrett scored a career-high 32 points along with Julius Randle’s second triple-double this season to power the Knicks past the Thunder on the road.

The New York Knicks (20-19) defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder (16-22) by a final score of 119-97. For New York, R.J. Barrett finished with 32 points, five rebounds, three assists, and three steals, while Julius Randle backed him up with a triple-double: 26 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists. For Oklahoma City, Luguentz Dort had 14 points, six rebounds, and five assists.

On the surface, this game was a bit of a mess from both sides to start, with Shai Gigleous-Alexander and George Hill out for the Thunder, while the Knicks were without point guards Derrick Rose and Elfrid Payton. Arguably four of the best ball-handlers and creators were out for this game. At first blush, you would think it would impact both offenses.

But only one of these two teams felt the absence. New York started slowly, while Oklahoma City got off to a blazing start, shooting 70% from the field in the first quarter. The Knicks couldn’t stop anything the Thunder threw at them; drives, backdoor cuts, mid-range floaters, everything was going down for OKC, with Dort and his ability to get to the basket leading the way. 

However, the Knicks got back into the game, and even led at the half, thanks to Immanuel Quickley. Backing up Frank Ntilikina to start, Quickley found success as Ntilikina picked up two quick fouls. His shooting was prevalent in getting New York back into this game, but his ability to just handle the ball and bend the Thunder defense slightly was also key. 

The second half saw New York carried by the trio of Quickley, Barrett, and Randle. All three had moments that, hopefully, pushed Thibodeau to them together more often. Quickley continued his play, while Randle continued to impact the game without scoring—making effective passes and continued to handle Oklahoma City bigs on the glass. Barrett had a brief stretch where he had a spot-up three, a finish in the lane off a hand-off, and then a finish at the rim for a three-point play. Everything looked beautiful. 

Despite taking a considerable lead heading into the fourth quarter, the Knicks had to fight off a hungry Thunder team. Without two of their top players, Oklahoma City continued to play hard, resulting in easy looks at the basket. Moses Brown used his size to make things tough on the glass, resulted in some second chance looks while the Thunder received some surprising minutes from Ty Jerome as a creator and overall offensive orchestrator. 

But the fourth quarter belonged to Randle, who solidified his triple-double with a few excellent feeds to Barrett in the middle of the floor. Then, as OKC began to build momentum, Randle knocked down a nice three-ball to calm things down. In the end, the Knicks were able to keep a Thunder team that started hot and kept rotating in hungry young players who made things enjoyable at bay. 

Overall, this was a fun game! Let’s move to the game notes.

Game Notes

  • I love Oklahoma City’s young players. Dort fell off in the second half but kept New York at bay with his ability to get to the rim. Jerome looks like a classic backup point guard while Theo Maledon has some attractive traits offensively. Aleksej Pokusevski is their muse; he can’t hit a shot to save his life, but the movement, defense, rebounding, and passing all show up in spurts. He puts it all together, and they have a guy there.

  • The last four bullet points are set for our top guys, so I’ll get some stuff in here: Frank should’ve played more but picked up two bad fouls and was benched. I don’t get it. Obi Toppin did a fine job in his few minutes out there, and Alec Burks continues to shine as a bench scoring option, and I’m not opposed to giving him a decent chunk of Reggie Bullock’s minutes.
  • We start with Randle, who didn’t start the game off well, missing quite a few easy looks. He settled in, though, and finished with a triple-double. The passing was excellent, moving the Thunder defense with it several times, and the rebounding was solid as he battled various Thunder bigs. Most of the scoring came in the fourth, but all in all, a strong performance by Randle. 
  • Can we talk about Quickley? After a so-so game against Milwaukee, the rookie bounced back with a 21-point outing. The three-ball came and went, but the floater was on point, and I think he did a fine job on defense, too. Quick doesn’t have to be a true playmaker with Barrett and Randle on the floor, but his ability to bend the floor with his shooting, while also having the capability to make the extra pass is golden. 
  • I’m running out of things to say about R.J. Barrett. Thirty-two points, five rebounds, three assists, three steals. He looked incredible attacking and navigating through the Thunder defense, never being sped up and showing great touch. He knocked down three of his six attempts from downtown and made some excellent passes. As Randle heated up and Quickley floated for a bit, Barrett carried the Knicks offense, and at 20 years old, I love to see it. 

The Knicks travel back to New York but head down to the Barclays Center to face Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and the rival Brooklyn Nets (25-13) on Monday, March 15th. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:00 p.m ET on ESPN.


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