GRIT. Barrett. And Alec Burks. 3 Reasons Why NY 106 Washington 102 on 3-25-21

The Knicks continue to get better as a team. They play Hard. They have Grit. The newest development: ability to shake off a horrible evening and beat a team they were supposed to beat, overcoming a 17-point 3rd-quarter deficit.

In this one, RJ Barrett shook off his own personally terrible first half, and bullied his way to the basket to drive the Knicks in the 2nd half, while Alec Burks did his best Kobe Bryant — lighting up the 4th quarter with his scoring from all areas of the court. And then at the end — they handed it to the King — Julius Randle — for the decisive sword thrusts. In this game on a Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

It was the second straight victory for NY over Washington — NY having beaten them on Tuesday night, also at MSG (crazy COVID schedule). Walt Frazier said during the game that beating an NBA team twice in a row has always been a difficult thing to do.

1. The Trade Deadline

This game came right after an intense morning and afternoon watching Shams and Woj on Twitter for latest trade news, as the trade deadline was at 3pm. Rumors were swirling that the Knicks might trade for Lonzo Ball from New Orleans, or Norman Powell from Toronto, or Andre Drummond from Cleveland, or even possibly Victor Oladipo from Houston. None of those trades transpired: Powell went to Portland; Oladipo went to Miami, and Lonzo Ball and Drummond were not traded — good news for the Knicks it was speculated, since that means the Knicks might get Lonzo as a free agent this summer without giving up anything (his dad wants him to play for NY), and Drummond may be picked up for nothing if Cleveland puts him on waivers as expected.

The Knicks were involved in a minor trade — dealing Austin Rivers and Iggy Brazdeikis to Philly for Terrance Ferguson and a 2nd round pick.

Ferguson was one of two Terrance’s traded during the day (the other was Terence Davis, traded by Toronto to Sacramento) — but not Terrence Ross — the 4th best player on Orlando — who was the sole survivor there after the Magic cleaned house and traded Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, and Evan Fournier. Ross won twitter for the day with this tweet:

So with all of that behind them — the Knicks’ players — some of whom might have thought they would be traded — came out relieved, and laid a dud.

Maybe they weren’t that concerned.

Steve Popper tweeted at 11:17 am, “Mitchell Robinson said there was no talk of trade deadline at morning shootaround for Knicks – thinks with way they’re playing just want to keep moving forward.”

When the game started, Coach Tom Thibodeau seemed to be trolling Knick fans by starting Frank Ntilikina, alongside Randle, Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, and Elfrid Payton.

As ShellyFamDimes put it the day before, “If Frank survives another deadline he should be in the running for the title of greatest Knick of all time.”

2. The Westbrook-Led Blowout

Well Ntilikina did survive the trade deadline, and he started, but it wasn’t Ntilikina’s fault the Knicks fell behind by 17 points in the 2nd quarter — it was due to horrendous shooting by NY — especially by Julius Randle and RJ Barrett. The Knicks as a team missed their first 11 (eleven) 3-pt shots.

Westbrook vs Barrett, Round 2

Russell Westbrook seemed intent on revenge — for NY beating Washington on Tuesday night, and for RJ Barrett smashing one of his drives into the stands during that game. Westbrook raised his level of energy by several orders of magnitude in this game — he was everywhere. Defending (blocking RJ Barrett‘s shot multiple times; he finished with 4 blocks), ripping rebounds out of the sky (he finished with 18), distributing (9 assists) and flying to the basket for finishes, including a Massive slam dunk near the end of the 3rd quarter — and then letting out a primal scream. He didn’t look 32.

Westbrook’s animal defense on RJ Barrett was forcing Barrett into mistakes. At one point at the end of the 3rd period, Taj Gibson put his arm around Barrett and gave him some encouragement.

And then.. RJ Barrett took over.

3. The Barrett-Led Comeback

It started with an offensive rebound series in the final seconds of the 3rd quarter — Barrett grabbing the rebound, putting it back up, the ball not falling, Barrett grabbing it again, and then putting it home. It pulled the Knicks to within 11 to end the 3rd. It was “Game On”.

Alec Burks became Kato — slicing and dicing, hitting 2’s, draining 3’s. Burks has been so important to the Knicks this year as their 3rd-scorer option. As mentioned here many times, he is a scorer’s scorer — adept at putting the ball in the basket in so many ways. And can handle point guard distribution and defend. Burks finished with a team-high 27 points.

Taj Gibson lit up the floor with hustle plays, grabbing loose balls — giving the Knicks superlative ENERGY. “That’s what he gives you,” said Coach Thibodeau afterwards.

Immanuel Quickley joined the effort with 3’s, floaters, and drives to the basket with kick-out passes.

Westbrook vs Barrett, Round 3

The Knicks were alive; their defense intensified, and Russell Westbrook started playing out of control — every one of his jumpers seemed destined to miss; and they did. He looked 32. An old 32.

When Barrett intercepted a pass, raced up court, bullied through Bradley Beal trying to defend for an “and-1” with 4:45 left, his ensuing free throw tied the game at 91-91. Barrett did a Superman flex of his muscles with Elvis Pressley lip curl.

Randle with the Final Swordplay

While all this was happening, Julius Randle sat behind the sidelines on a stationary bicycle trying to keep his slightly injured hamstring from tightening up.

The Knicks took a shallow lead, and in the closing minutes, Randle was back on the court — and NY went to him for the big, badly needed buckets. Washington put top defender but only 6’3 tall Bradley Beal on him — like they did the last game. Beal tried to take away Randle’s dribble, but Randle is taller than Beal, and was able to maneuver and get off his Carmelo Anthony baseline jumper.

One dagger. And then another to ice it, over the 6’8 Rui Hachimura.

After that it was all purposeful fouls and free throws, which Alec Burks made to ice it.

The Boxscore



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