RJ Barrett delivers for Knicks —even if it wasn’t in crunch time

RJ Barrett gave the Knicks a clutch performance, even if he didn’t play all the clutch minutes.

Facing a must-win Game 2 in their Eastern Conference semifinals series, Barrett poured in 24 points to help lift the Knicks to a 111-105 victory over Miami before a sellout crowd of 19,812 at the Garden.

Even though Barrett sat much of the Knicks’ 24-12 run over the final seven minutes — the second time in the last three games Tom Thibodeau has benched a key starter down the stretch — he hit big shots early and is now averaging 25.0 points for a Knicks team in need of all the offense it can get against Miami’s vaunted defense.

“I just play basketball,” Barrett shrugged. “Thankfully shots were falling since the beginning, I kind of was able to help get the team going and we were able to just fight through the night.

“Just trying to be aggressive, [attack] the defense. I know it is going to be a brawl, I know it’s going to be a battle, so I just try to come prepared for the start.”

After going just 1 of 5 from deep in the Knicks’ Game 1 loss on Sunday, Barrett’s deep stroke was working Tuesday night.

RJ Barrett celebrates during the Knicks’ Game 2 win over the Heat on Tuesday.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

The wing hit 5 of 9 from behind the arc, and was one of the few Knicks who was dangerous throughout against Miami’s maddening 2-3 zone.

“Huge difference. They played really good defense and they tried to pack the paint and take away easy stuff in there. So being able to knock down those 3s was huge,” Barrett said.

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Thibodeau had sat All-Star forward Julius Randle the entire fourth quarter of the Game 5 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, and this time around, after Barrett’s hot start he was used sparingly in the fourth quarter.

But the tactic worked, and the Knicks reeled off a 24-12 blitz to salvage a split in the Garden.

RJ Barrett drives to the basket for the Knicks during their Game 2 win over the Heat on Tuesday.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

“The positive is that we’re going in 1-1,” Barrett said. “It’s been a good series, challenging series so far. It’s been a dogfight, and we love it. So going in there really confident.”

source: nypost.com