The New York Knicks win over the Boston Celtics on opening night featured some monster performances, epic mistakes, and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.
There were some spectacular offensive performances from players like Julius Randle, Jaylen Brown, and Evan Fournier. The most notable defensive performance, at least, on the perimeter, came from RJ Barrett.
New York Knicks: RJ Barrett shines on defense
Now, before Boston Celtics fans come screaming “He missed a lot of open shots!!!” let’s just breathe. Inhale, exhale.
Yes, Jayson Tatum missed some open shots. He also missed some shots due to RJ Barrett’s defense. Both are allowed to be true.
Even the best players in the world, like Jayson Tatum, are prone to having good a defender defeat their offense from time to time. Jayson Tatum is going to be fine. This is an RJ Barrett article, not a Jayson Tatum one.
When Jayson Tatum was guarded by RJ Barrett last night, he shot 3 of 16 from the field. He shot 1 of 6 from three. Jayson Tatum will go on to have another spectacular season, but it seems like Barrett might have reached the next step into becoming a 2-way player.
Jayson Tatum was RJ Barrett’s assignment all night long. Barrett spent over 11 total minutes as Tatum’s primary defender. The next New York Knicks player who spent the most time on Tatum was Evan Fournier, at just under 2 total minutes.
Barrett’s length and physicality played a major factor in Tatum having a rough night.
The defense showed up throughout the game but it also showed up in the most important moments down the stretch. Skip to 8:02 in the video below to see Barrett 1-on-1 defending Jayson Tatum in the first overtime.
Tatum can create space on anyone. Hesis, tween crossovers, he always gets his shot, you just have to make it as difficult as possible.
He gets some space here, but Barrett is all UP in his grill and gets a hand in his face as he fades away.
This is the RJ Barrett that needs to be here for the New York Knicks all season long.
Barrett has certainly flashed defense in his young career. He had some impressive showings last year, most notably his defense on Kawhi Leonard in last year’s road victory against the Clippers.
That’s typically where Barrett thrives on defense — against big, physical wings. He can match that.
This season, he is carrying a lot of responsibility on defense to be the team’s go-to primary defender on the perimeter. He wants to prove that he’s an elite defender in this league.
Game 1 is in the books and he looks up the challenge.