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New York Post

RJ Barrett responds to benching with 30-point night in Knicks’ win over Heat

By Peter Botte,


Julius Randle played an early starring role, and RJ Barrett did his thing with his second-half minutes restored to lead the Knicks to a pivotal win against a playoff-race opponent.

After Randle was named an All-Star reserve for the second time in three seasons, he scored 19 of his 23 points in the first two quarters — and Barrett emerged from this week’s benching with 20 of his 30 after halftime — as the Knicks closed out a key 106-104 victory Thursday night over the Heat at the Garden.

“It just shows his growth,” Randle said of Barrett after the game. “You can pout and kind of sulk because you didn’t play the game before, but I think everybody here is all in on winning, and for him to come in and constantly I think throughout the game make the right plays … that was big, so I’m super proud of him.”

Quentin Grimes added 17 points as the Knicks (28-25) — minus starting point guard and All-Star snub Jalen Brunson (non-COVID illness) — moved one game behind the Heat for the sixth playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
RJ Barrett, who scored 30 points, drives past Tyler Herro during the Knicks’ 106-104 win over the Heat.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post
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Knicks’ Julius Randle gets All-Star nod, Jalen Brunson snubbed

Barrett shot 13-for-23 over 41 effective minutes following his late-game benching for the final 6:41 of regulation and all of overtime in Tuesday’s loss to the Lakers.

“The thing I love about RJ is I always believe he’s gonna bounce back. And I saw it immediately the next day after the Laker game. I said, ‘We’ll be fine,’ ” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Because I know it’s important to RJ and I knew he’d come out aggressive.”

Asked about uncharacteristically declining to address the media after Tuesday’s loss, Barrett said, “I’m human, I get frustrated like everybody. My momma told me if you don’t have anything good to say don’t say anything at all. This is the NBA, man, I have my family, this team, always support each other, have those guys for sure. It’s the NBA. It’s one game, just like this is one game.”

All-Star forward Bam Adebayo netted 32 points and Tyler Herro had 25 for Miami, which had won 17 of its previous 25 games.
Julius Randle, who scored 23 points, shoots over Tyler Herro during the Knicks’ win.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Randle, who trails only Luka Doncic among all NBA players in first-quarter points this season, netted a dozen in the first 12 minutes and 19 in the first half as the Knicks carried a 51-48 lead into intermission.

Barrett netted 11 on 5 of 7 shooting in the third, including nine in an 11-0 run to open the second half, as the Knicks pushed their cushion to 14. But Herro buried three consecutive 3s in less than one minute and Kyle Lowry knocked down another to culminate a 19-4 splurge for a 67-66 Heat turnaround lead with under three minutes remaining.
Evan Fournier, who scored five points off the bench, drives past Haywood Highsmith during the Knicks’ victory.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Isaiah Hartenstein’s converted 3-point play drew the Knicks even again with 1:41 to go, before two free throws by Evan Fournier — back in the rotation with Brunson sidelined — and consecutive corner treys by Miles McBride (eight points) and Grimes led to a 77-72 lead for the Knicks entering the final period.

A solid stretch by Barrett and the four-man second unit to open the fourth — featuring another 3-pointer by McBride, a lefty put-back by Barrett and four points by Obi Toppin — had the Knicks up 92-81 with 7:23 left. Adebayo’s baseline jumper drew the Heat back within two at the 2:50 mark, but Grimes’ left-side 3-pointer made it 100-95 one minute later.
Bam Adebayo, who scored a game-high 32 points, goes up for a shot during the Knicks’ win over the Heat.
NBAE via Getty Images

A steal by Adebayo and two free throws following a hard foul by Randle closed the gap to 102-101 with 52.8 ticks to go, before a pretty passing sequence from Barrett to Grimes to Hartenstein for a dunk restored the lead to three. Hartenstein then intercepted a pass and Grimes fed Randle for another jam for a five-point cushion with five seconds on the clock.

After Max Strus nailed a quick 3-pointer for a two-point game with 2.2 seconds to go, the refs initially called Adebayo for a foul on Randle as he received a high inbounds pass from Barrett. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra’s challenge that Randle lost the ball without being fouled was upheld, but Herro’s 3-point attempt from the corner rang off the rim as time expired.

“It was great, we needed it, especially to do it on the home court,” Randle said. “They’re above us [in the standings] and we want to close that gap a little bit.”

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