Barrett, Randle, Fournier Lead Knicks. NY 117 Atlanta 108

RJ Barrett came out in beast mode early, and Julius Randle came out in beast mode later on to carry the Knicks to a big lead — and just when Atlanta pulled to within 2 with a 4th quarter run, Evan Fournier stepped up with 2 huge shots to keep Atlanta at bay. Barrett hit clutch shots down the stretch as well to lead NY to the 117-108 win in Atlanta on a Saturday night.

Mitchell Robinson was a beast all night, and Alec Burks almost turned a triple double as the Knick starters were all in double digits in points.

“I thought Julius made great reads all game long, and that got us going. And you can’t say enough about the way RJ is playing also”, said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “I thought the rebounding was a big factor. The defense in the 1st half was really good. Once we got up 17 in the 3rd, we sort of got loose. And you can’t do that in this league. You get loose against a good offensive team which they are — they can chop 10 points off in a minute, and they did — and then you’re fighting for your life — and that’s what we did.”

1. Atlanta Comeback Fueled by Okongwu

The Knicks had been up by 17 in the 3rd quarter, but an Atlanta run that started in the 3rd and ran into the 4th quarter got them to within 8 points with 9:22 left in the game.

That’s when Julius Randle — who was playing with FIRE in the 2nd half — went to the rim for a slam — but Onyeka Okongwu was there to block his slam at the rim. Okongwu went the other way and scored on a Danillo Galinari pass and Atlanta was within 6.

Minutes later, with 7:33 left — Randle took it to the basket again against John Collins, driving past him for a power layup but there was Okongwu again blocking his shot.

Lou Williams followed with a 3 and Atlanta was down by 2, 93-91 with 7:26 left. It looked bad for NY — the Okongwu blocks seemed like game changers and Atlanta had full momentum.

2. Fournier the Difference Maker

The Knicks couldn’t seem to penetrate Atlanta’s clamped-down defense — but then Evan Fournier stepped up. The offensive weapon the Knicks didn’t have last year in the playoff series they lost to Atlanta.

He hit what looked like a 3 from the right side (was ruled a 2) and NY was back up by 4.

On next possession, he dribble penetrated into the lane and tossed up a floater and NY was back up by 6, 97-91 with 6:20 left. Two HUGE shots and momentum breakers.

3. Barrett and Randle Clutch Down Stretch

RJ Barrett was next to step up, driving into the lane and hitting a 12-foot pullup to give NY a 6-pt lead.

Then Julius Randle took it to the rim again with a power move, and this time eluded a lurking Okongwu for a layup, and 6-pt lead.

Atlanta would not go away — Galinari and Young making buckets, sandwiching Alec Burks free throws and Atlanta was down 103-100 with 3:37 left when the Knicks worked the offense and found RJ Barrett in the right corner for a CLUTCH nothing-but-net 3 with 3:37 left and NY 6-pt lead again.

Julius Randle hit a huge bucket inside — where Collins knocked the ball out of his hands and he recovered and powered it back up for a score. A HUGE play in the game.

Then Evan Fournier hit a 3 while the Knicks defense buckled down and forced turnovers and it was a clear sail to a win. Mitchell Robinson’s DUNK on an Alec Burks pass with 1:47 left gave NY a 113-100 lead to seal it.

4. Barrett a Beast Early

RJ Barrett came out aggressive again to lead the Knicks in the 1st half. He was coming off two straight 30-point-plus games and was taking it to the basket again here — with drives against contact or quick penetrations for easy buckets. Barrett had 10 points in the 1st quarter, and 13 at the half to lead NY.

He had 13 in the second half as well to finish with 26 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal on efficient shooting: 8-20 overall, 2-5 from 3, and importantly, 8-10 from the free throw line. In key plays in the 4th quarter he was able to draw contact on drives to the basket and hit his free throws.

The 8-10 free throws raised his yearly percentage to .703. He’d been in a slump in free throw shooting recently which had dropped him under .700 but is back raising the percentage the last few games.

5. Randle a Beast Later On

Julius Randle had only 2 points in the 1st quarter, but scored 13 points in the 2nd quarter to give him 15 at the half.

Randle played as if he wanted to rip Atlanta down. He was hitting his 3, which opened up the other parts of his game. The entire Atlanta team would rotate in defensive help position as soon as Randle got the ball — to try to deny one of his forays into the lane.

On defense, he often switched to guarding Trae Young at the 3 point line, and gave Young trouble all night.

Late in the game, Randle’s crossover broke John Collins’ ankles.

6. Robinson a Beast All Game

And Mitchell Robinson was a beast all game — finishing with 14 points (on 6-8 shooting) and 13 rebounds. He didn’t block a shot but played good defense in the middle and didn’t have a single foul until very late in the game.

Atlanta was without Clint Capela so Robinson was able to dominate inside. Okongwu did great for Atlanta in 24 minutes (12 pts on 6-6 shooting, 2 blocks) but he is only 6’8 and couldn’t match Robinson’s size.

7. Burks with Quiet Near Triple Double

And Alec Burks had a quiet near triple-double: 17 points (on 4-8 shooting, 2-6 from 3, 7-7 in free throws), 9 rebounds and 8 assists in 36 minutes.

Burks played heady ball in the decisive 4th quarter as usual.

8. Other Knicks

Quentin Grimes had a terrific game — playing excellent defense on Trae Young and hitting 3’s almost as soon as he came off the bench twice in the game. He had 8 points on 3-3 shooting (2-2 from 3) in 16 minutes.

Taj Gibson played his usual hard-had 17 minutes.

Immanuel Quickley had a difficult time getting his shot off against Atlanta in the half court and finished 1-6 for 3 points in 20 minutes. Obi Toppin had a quiet game — 0 pts in 11 minutes.


After the game the Knicks to a man embraced former teammate Kevin Knox, who suited up for his first game with Atlanta after the trade two nights ago on Thursday.

The Boxscore


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