The New York Knicks hosted the Pacers on Saturday night in front of a loud and passionate 1,981 fans. RJ Barrett shined against Indiana for the third time this season.
It’s also just the third game that limited fans were allowed back into Madison Square Garden since the pandemic shut the season down prematurely last year.
The Knicks got off to a sluggish start, trailing Indiana by 16 points midway through the second quarter before a Julius Randle-inspired comeback and a Derrick Rose three-pointer at the buzzer put them ahead by 2 at the half.
Clearly, Derrick Rose is making the best of his second stint with the Knicks.
It was a back and forth game from then on with the Knicks making some runs and the Pacers refusing to go away.
Knicks’ 2nd year Star RJ Barrett loves the Pacers.
RJ Barrett came up clutch down the stretch with a big three-pointer followed by a tough three-point play, scoring the bucket and converting the foul shot.
Frank Ntilikina in his second straight game in the rotation came up with a huge defensive play at the end, getting the steal and taking the intentional foul before cooly draining two free throws to put the game to bed.
The win officially giving the Knicks a .500 record (17-17) and moving them up to 4th place in the Eastern Conference.
- First-time All-Star Julius Randle had a tough battle with Indiana’s All-Star (albeit an Injury Replacement) Domantas Sabonis and put in a fantastic effort, 28 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists & 4 steals while also playing physical defense against Sabonis, limiting him to just 15 points (5/10) and forcing him to be more of a distributor (9 assists).
- RJ Barrett once again had a stellar performance against the pacers with 24 points and 7 rebounds including 4/6 from three-point range.
- RJ Barrett is averaging 25 points per game on 57% shooting, including an incredible 11/14 (78%) from three against the Pacers. I don’t know what RJ has against Indiana but he certainly loves playing them!
- Derrick Rose was good again in his second straight start finishing the night with 17 points and 11 assists in 37 minutes.
So another nice three-point shooting effort from RJ Barrett got me thinking about how confident he looks taking the three-ball as of late. He’s shooting without hesitation and looking more and more like a legitimate threat from range off the catch.
Through his first season and a half, RJ Barrett has held the perception as an average at best three-point shooter, and after a torrid first 5 games in the month of December where he shot 12.5% from deep, those perceptions weren’t about to go away anytime soon.
Despite that start, RJ Barrett has bounced back to average a respectable 34% on 3.4 three-point attempts a game. An increase from 32% (3.5 3PA per game) in his rookie campaign too.
If we take away that cold 5 game stretch from the start of the season and look at his shooting percentages since January 1st we’ll see that RJ has brought that three-point shooting percentage up to 39.6%. That’s across a pretty decent-sized sample of 29 games too, it appears that RJ may just have found his range from distance.
Not only has RJ Barrett started to find some consistency with his stroke from deep, but he is also becoming an above-average shooter from the corner (42%), specifically from the left-hand corner where he is shooting a scorching 55%.
There is no doubt RJ Barrett is benefiting from the attention that Julius Randle draws from opposing defenses, which is further demonstrated by the fact that since January 1st Randle has assisted on 48% of RJ’s made three-pointers (per nba.com/stats).
Randle’s passing ability and vision are creating a lot of good looks and RJ Barrett has done a good job of getting to his spots and trusting that Randle will find him.
The on-court chemistry between the two is so far improved from a season ago, it’s perhaps one of the most important developments for this Knicks team.
Overall, the development and improvement RJ Barrett has shown as a shooter is a very encouraging sign for last season’s number 3 overall pick.
As RJ Barrett continues to improve in both his 3-point accuracy and playmaking ability, we here at Daily Knicks have a vision of him one day running the point for the team in the not-too-distant future.
Becoming a consistent threat from deep will open up so many opportunities for him and the Knicks on the offensive end, and if the past two months of work are anything to go by, his three-point shot looks like it may just be the real deal.