Barrett Free Throws & Defense Saves Knicks’ Life; NY 100 Washington 97

RJ Barrett hit 2 huge free throws with 4.9 seconds left to offset a crazy 3-point barrage by Kyle Kuzma in the final minutes and give NY final insurance in their 100-97 win. Barrett then played great D on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who missed a 3 from 26 feet at the buzzer for the Knick win.

This game seemed over late in the 4th. NY held a 10-point lead throughout most of the 2nd half and was up by 15, at  96-81, with 4 minutes left.

But then Kyle Kuzma went NUTS in the final 2 minutes — hitting three straight 3’s from Way outside — carrying Washington to a 16-2 run and pull the Wizards to within a point at 98-97. Washington got the ball — and got it to Kuzma with 8 seconds left but he missed a final 3 from straight away. RJ Barrett grabbed the rebound and was fouled intentionally to put him at the line for the crucial free throws that he hit.

“It shows you no game is safe,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “Kuzma threw in some deep 3’s — and that can happen in this game. And then we miss some bunnies; miss some open shots; and then you’re fighting for your life.”

NY is now 30-40 with 12 games left; they vault ahead of Washington which falls to 29-40.

1. Barrett Comes Up Big

Barrett didn’t have the best shooting night — 6-22 from the floor — but was 5-6 from the free throw line, and the 2 clutch free throws at the end were Huge. Barrett struggled with his free throw percentage earlier in the season, which came to a head in his 46-point game on February 25th, where he was 14 for 22 from the line. After that game he talked openly about screwing up on the line and vowed he’d be improving in that area — and he has.

He’s been on a tear from the free throw line since then and has upped his percentage on the season to .713. The free throw shooting is the final piece to making Barrett a 2-way star.

2. Knicks Dominated Washington on the Boards

The Knicks out rebounded Washington 60-38. Julius Randle had 17 rebounds to go with 18 points (on 6-22 shooting, same as Barrett). Randle was 1-7 from 3 — the shot is still not consistently there.

Mitchell Robinson was extremely active all night and was a beast on the boards as well — he had 12 rebounds and 15 points on 6-10 shooting, facing off against Kristaps Porzingis who had a similar line: 11 rebounds and 18 points on 5-9 shooting.

This was Porzingis’s first game back at MSG in front of a full post-COVID-era crowd. He was booed throughout the evening but it wasn’t a raucous booing.

Robinson guarded Porzingis tightly all evening, and considering that Porzingis can go for 25+ points on any given evening, Robinson did a good job keeping Porzingis under control while almost matching him in points scored.

Jericho Sims, RJ Barrett, Quentin Grimes, and Alec Burks all had 6 rebounds for NY to help with the big rebounding advantage — a sign that Thibodeau’s mantra that everyone rebound has taken hold on the team.

Corey Kispert — Washington’s 6’9 #15 pick in the 2021 draft — played well at small forward (14 pts) but got only 2 rebounds. Daniel Gafford, Washington’s shot-blocking center — got 2 rebounds off the bench in 17 minutes. Rui Hachimura played well offensively (11 pts on 4-7 shooting) but only got 2 rebounds.

3. Fournier 3’s

Evan Fournier was a big part of the story. He played splendidly — coming up with numerous steals and playing smartly on offense — dribble penetrating and making proper passes, and then shooting well. He was 5-13 from the floor — 5-11 from 3 — for 15 points. He is on target to break John Starks‘ Knicks record for most 3-point shots made in a season.

At the Point

Immanuel Quickley had another good game at the point — 15 pts and 5 assists in 28 minutes. He made some splendid passes off rebounds to set up the break.

Quickley was 9-9 from the free throw line, and is currently 3rd in the league (Stephan Curry leads).

Raul Neto played well at the point for Washington (5-10 for 11 pts), and Walt Frazier favorite Ish Smith came off the bench for 14 minutes of fiesty play.

The Boxscore

https://www.espn.com/nba/boxscore/_/gameId/401360865

 

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