Incredible Comeback. 5 Reasons Why NY 133 Memphis 129 on 4-9-21

The Knicks were dead. — Memphis had this game won, up by 13 points with 6 minutes left. Memphis seemed the younger, more athletic, more energetic, more talented team — all with players picked in the 2nd round or late 1st round; relative ‘no names’. The Knicks — with Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose on the court, and Immanuel Quickley, looked Old and small.

And then…

1. Barrett, Burks & Tough Knicks D Took Over

RJ Barrett put the Knicks on his broad shoulders and carried them back with his shooting and inside scoring. Barrett seems on a mission the last few games. His outside shooting and free throw shooting were the two areas of his game that needed improvement and both have improved dramatically this season, especially in the second half.

But in recent days, Barrett missed the last-second, potential game-winning shot against Minnesota a week ago, and was slandered by the Timberwolves Anthony Edwards who said they wanted him to take the final shot. Then a few days ago Barrett was left off ESPN’s list of top 25 players in the game under 25.

With 5:48 left Barrett hit a 3 to bring the Knicks back to within 10. Minnesota answered, but Barrett came back with a driving layup to pull NY back to within 10 with 5:04 left.

2. Turning Point — Barrett’s 3 Free Throws

The tough Knicks D kicked in, and NY went on an 8-2 run; Julius Randle scoring and feeding Immanuel Quickley for a bucket inside, and Alec Burks getting to the free throw line 4 times. Randle traded buckets with Jonas Valanciunas and the Knicks were down 3 with 37 seconds left when a Randle pass to the right corner found RJ Barrett with time about up on the 24 second clock.

Barrett shot and was fouled by Dillon Brooks. To the line for 3 free throws — a chance to tie the game.

Of all people RJ Barrett, who shot .614 from the free throw line last year as a rookie. But again — much improved free throw shooting this year (.736).

He made all 3.

Tie game.

3. Barrett’s Game-Tying Drive

However, Morant got fouled on the other end, made one free throw, and Julius Randle had a chance to put the Knicks ahead but missed a jumper with 17 seconds left. The Knicks looked dead again.

Valanciunas was fouled with 15 seconds left, made the 1st free throw, but missed the second — and RJ Barrett took it from there — going length of court for the game-tying drive, against Ja Morant.


4. Barrett & Burks In OT

Memphis’s Dillon Brooks hit a 3 to start OT, but there was Barrett again with a driving bucket to immediately put the Knicks right back, a point behind. Randle hit a 3 to put the Knicks up by Brooks countered with a layup and then it was Alec Burks with a 3 and a hook in the lane.

Tie game with 1:15 left when RJ Barrett hit a 3 to put the Knicks up, as it turned out, for good. Alec Burks added a bucket to put the Knicks up 5 with 26 seconds left.

In the end it was free throws. Randle missed 2 with 13 seconds left that would have iced the game, but Immanuel Quickley hit his free throws with 4.5 seconds left to give the Knicks an insurmountable 5-pt lead and the game. His mom watching somewhere on a stream or tv must have been proud. Insurmountable until Dillon Brooks hit another 3 with 2.4 seconds left to make it a 2-pt game. But Alec Burks hit his free throws to end it.

5. The Grizzilies’ Young Talent

The Grizzilies had just won 4 in a row on an East Coast trip. The Knicks were the one team to beat them. Besides Ja Morant, and Valanciunas, they have:

  • Dillon Brooks is a 6’7, 25-yr-old shooter out of Oregon who was a 2nd round pick (#45 ) for Houston in 2017.
  • Brandon Clarke, first man off the Memphis bench — who tore them apart inside all evening. Clarke is a 6’8, 24-yr-old forward out of Gonzaga — a late first-round (#21) pick by Oklahoma City in the 2019 draft.
  • Kyle Anderson the starting small forward is a 6’9, 27-yr old who was #30 pick in 2014d draft by San Antonio
  • Grayson Allen, starting 6’4, 25-yr-old shooting guard out of Duke was picked #21 by Utah in 2018,
  • Desmond Bane, a 6’5, 22-yr-old came off the bench for 16 points. He was the #30 pick by Boston in 2020.

At one point early in the 4th I tweeted that with Brandon Clarke tearing NY up inside, maybe Thibs should bring in Kevin Knox — to go along with Obi Toppin who was in at the time. Knox’s size would match the size of Clarke — who was being guarded by the 6’5 Burks at the time.

Knox has played a lot more energetically this year and could’ve possibly matched Clarke’s intensity and size. Knox shoots better from 3 than Clarke, but Clarke’s rebound and assist per minute numbers are still a lot better than Knox’s.

  • Knox is averaging 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 12.9 points per 36 minutes this year;
  • Clarke is averaging 7.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.2 blocks and 16.3 ppg per 36 min.
  • Clarke is clearly much more active — however it should be noted Knox averaged more rebounds (5.6, 5.7) per 36 min in his first two seasons — so his decreased numbers may be due to his role in Thibodeau’s offense, where he almost exclusively positions himself outside for 3’s

6. Toppin Out of Outer Space

Obi Toppin played great and came out of nowhere — seemingly out of outer space — on one put-back SLAM.

Randle had another triple double — his 5th of the season; 15 pts, 10 rebounds, 11 assists. His shooting has been off (4-12) but not his overall play.

Barrett finished with 20 points on 7-13 shooting (2-4 from 3, 4-5 free throws). Burks had 19 points, Quickley 20 points (on 7-12, 4-6 from 3), and Derrick Rose 19 points.

Elfrid Payton led the Knicks offensively in the first half. He finished with 12 pts on 5-9 shooting (2-2 from 3) in 15 minutes; he didn’t play much in the 4th quarter or OT after the team on the court with Rose and Quickley, and sometimes with Quickley and Burks with Barrett, Randle, and Nerlens Noel, made their run.

If the 2019 Draft Were Held Again

A game like this, where RJ Barrett shines yet again, and wins the day over Ja Morant — resurfaces a tweet from January where I conjectured that if the 2019 draft were held again, and the Knicks had the #1 pick many thought they’d get that year (but didn’t) — NY might pick RJ Barrett.

This is due to the fact that Barrett looks like the more bankable star for the future, vs Zion Williamson (averaging 26.5 ppg this year) who is terrific but so much of his game is predicated on athleticism and slam dunks — and the risk that his knees may give out under his massive frame. And Ja Morant is phenomenal but doesn’t play defense.

The shooting stats right now:

  • RJ Barrett .474 from 2, .382 from 3, .736 FT (and great D)
  • Zion Williamson .626 from 2, .360 from 3, .706 FT (great D; worry about knees)
  • Ja Morant .500 from 2, .273 from 3, .743 FT (no D)

The Boxscore

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