RJ Barrett drew plaudits from his teammate and coach as the Knicks pulled away from the Spurs due to the strong performance by the third-year wing.
NEW YORK, N.Y. — After starting the season 6-11 at Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks have now won four straight home games following their victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Monday. A New York starting lineup that has gone through its fair share of struggles came to play as four starters reached double digits in scoring.
But while contributions from the likes of Evan Fournier (18 points) and Mitchell Robinson (13 points, 11 rebounds) were invaluable in this win, it was third-year wing RJ Barrett who truly stole the show for the Knicks.
RJ HAS 31‼️ pic.twitter.com/CzT00h0NBd
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) January 11, 2022
Barrett scored a game-high 31 points on 12-for-20 shooting from the field and 3-for-4 from deep. He showcased a diverse offensive arsenal by foraying his way to the cup, splashing mid-range jumpers, and even playmaking for his teammates. Barrett finished with four assists, which doesn’t necessarily jump off the page, but he was third on the team in assists for the evening, behind Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes. All in all, Barrett put together one of his better all-around performances of the year, and during the postgame press conferences, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau had positive things to say about the Duke product’s night.
“The big thing [for Barrett] is just reading the game … attack the rim,” Thibodeau said. “That’s one of his strengths.” Thibodeau then went on to explain that when Barrett is aggressive in getting to the cup like he was tonight, it forces the defense to collapse and thus allows for crisp and clean ball movement, which helps the team find a rhythm offensively.
When it was his turn at the podium, Fournier gushed about Barrett’s 31-point outing and the various ways in which he was able to score. “He’s been playing great,” said Fournier, who scored a career-best 41 points on Thursday before missing Saturday’s Celtics rematch. “He’s a very strong driver—we all know that. He’s going to his left one way or another. But when he can switch things up and hit a couple floaters or mid-rangers … then the defense doesn’t know what to do.”
After his show-stopping display tonight, all eyes were on Barrett—there’s no denying this. He was a trending topic throughout the postgame pressers as teammates took turns praising the up-and-coming 21-year-old. But another, more minor storyline was that Julius Randle dropped just two points. He even heard occasional boos from the Garden crowd.
Thibodeau was quick to defend Randle when asked about him, claiming the team was better off with him out there regardless of his low-point total.
“Winning is the most important thing,” Thibodeau said. “I don’t want to be caught up in how many points you scored, how many rebounds you have.”
The Knicks earned their first blowout victory in quite some time, and that alone deserves celebration. And with five of its next six at home, New York has some winnable games on the horizon. Will they be able to capitalize on this stretch? Only time will tell.