RJ Barrett has been treated to a hero’s welcome to New York, but hasn’t yet played the part.
In his first NBA win, Barrett’s first double-double (19 points, 15 rebounds) took a back seat to Bobby Portis’ timely shooting and 28 points off the bench. In the rookie’s first road win, he endured the worst shooting night (1-for-9) of his young career. In Thursday’s emotional home win against Kristaps Porzingis and the Mavericks, the third-overall pick watched veteran Marcus Morris set the Garden ablaze with a tie-breaking 3-pointer in the final minute.
On Saturday, Barrett was finally seizing the role the franchise eyes for him.
After hitting just one of his first six shots and committing three turnovers in a 53-second stretch during the third quarter, Barrett re-entered the game with 5:24 remaining in the fourth quarter and stretched a one-point lead on three occasions. First, he drilled a pull-up jumper. Then, he grabbed a pair of rebounds and hit three of four free throws. Then, he knocked down a 3-pointer with 2:31 remaining, before assisting Julius Randle to bring the lead back to four with 1:19 to play.
Barrett led the Knicks in scoring for the second time — finishing with 22 points, while shooting 8 of 16 from the field (2 of 4 on 3-pointers) and 4 of 5 from the free-throw line — but failed to lead the Knicks to their first back-to-back wins of the season, with the Hornets swiping a 103-102 win in the final seconds.
“What you’re starting to see is a real consistent thing from him,” David Fizdale said following Sunday’s practice. “It doesn’t matter if he plays poorly in the first half, whether he’s making his shots or not. That second half, he’s gonna find a way to impact the game. He’s just such a gamer that way and he really stepped up for us in the second half to help us.”