RJ Barrett must’ve heard what some New York Knicks fans were saying about Tom Thibodeau benching him. In front of an electric crowd at Madison Square Garden, it was Barrett that put on a show in the first half on an otherwise horrendous shooting night for both teams.
It was evident that Barrett was en route to having a good night when he knocked down his first three-point attempt. Shortly after, he picked up a steal and finished with a fastbreak layup. And guess what? He even hit another three. Barrett was a combined 1-for-8 from deep in Games 1 and 2.
Barrett finished with six assists and five rebounds in Game 1 to go with some solid defense, but he shot 2-for-12. New York still managed to win, though, 101-97. In an ugly Game 2 defeat that had zero Knicks positives, Barrett had 14 points but shot 4-of-13.
It’s been said multiple times that if New York is going to beat Cleveland and advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Barrett will need to be a key part of that. Well, he did just that with hands down the best playoff half that he’s had in his short career.
Knicks’ RJ Barrett shows up at right time in front of electric MSG crowd
RJ Barrett shot 6-of-10 from the field and 2-of-5 from three for 14 points in the first half of a 45-32 New York lead over Cleveland. In the first two games, he finished with a combined 21 points. He was by far the best player on the floor for both teams, which is what Knicks fans have been waiting not-so-patiently to see.
If his confidence was low after his first two playoff games, that quickly changed on Friday. It was crucial that he was able to see his shots fall early. In a half where both teams shot a combined 6-of-38 from the floor, Barrett was a saving grace for New York on the offensive end in the first half which ended with him dunking the ball after a Knicks steal.
If this version of RJ Barrett can hang around in the playoffs, and the Knicks can start to knock down some shots, New York will be better for it.