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Knicks 117, Wizards 99: ‘Barrett was Barrett’

RJ and the gang crushed Washington

New York Knicks v Washington Wizards Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

The New York Knicks might have been heading into Saturday night’s contest with the Washington Wizards...if this had been a regular-season game, that is. The Knicks were missing their three best frontcourt players in Julius Randle (personal reasons), Mitchell Robinson (foot) and Nerlens Noel (knee). The Wiz may not be world-beaters, but they do sport a solid pair of bigs in Daniel Gafford and Montrezl Harrell.

Gafford and particularly Harrell (18 points) feasted, but this game was was won in the backcourt. The Wizards may have had a healthy Bradley Beal and Spencer Dinwiddie, but they still couldn’t match New York’s firepower. The Knicks rained destruction from deep, shooting 24-52 from three. While Washington was surprisingly frisky on defense, forcing several Knick turnovers, the Knicks would eventually overwhelm them en route to an easy 117-99 victory.

Notes:

- RJ Barrett was far from perfect Saturday night. He only shot 5-12 from the field, and he missed several attempts at the rim. The Wizards’ busy hands bothered him on several drives, as he coughed up the ball to the tune of 5 turnovers.

But his defense on Beal was, quite frankly, spectacular. The league’s second-leading scorer last season was limited to 14 points on 5-13 shooting, and was visibly frustrated by the time he checked out for good in the third quarter. It was a masterful response to those who believed he couldn’t replace Reggie Bullock as the Knicks’ top perimeter stopper. Bullock was a great role player, but anything he can do, RJ can do better. For good measure, RJ chipped in 18 points, 4 triples, and some truly great passing. As P&T’er SJComic noted, Barrett played like Barrett. This is just who he is now, and it’s awesome.

- I hope I didn’t jinx Derrick Rose. The Knicks’ second unit was carving up the Wiz early in the fourth quarter, and the game was clearly over, so I tweeted: “Take out Rose, pls.” A few seconds later, Rose went down with an apparent injury, and Thibs mercifully took him out of the game. Afterward, Rose attributed it to a mild ankle tweak.

Thibs is not going to take his foot off the gas pedal, even in preseason — he even brought RJ back in to finish the game — but hopefully he sits Rose for a while. Better safe than sorry.

Rose was magnificent, by the way: 15 points on 4-7 shooting, 8 assists. Let’s keep him healthy!

- With Randle out, and Obi Toppin not doing much contributing in the first half, we had some prolonged Kevin Knox action! Knox made the most of his time, scoring 12 points on 4-6 shooting from three. He still can’t defend much, and probably won’t see much playing time, but the kid can still stroke it from beyond the arc.

- Fortunately for Toppin, he came alive in the second half, scoring all 13 of his points in the third and fourth quarters. He really seems to be finding the range on above-the-break threes...not so much from the corners, though.

- Jericho Sims saw some extended action one again. His numbers look good (7 points, 13 rebounds), but he was really pushed around down low by Gafford and Harrell. Sims is still a physical freak, but you don’t play many beasts like Montrezl Harrell in college. I’m a Sims believer, but he still needs some seasoning in the G League. Taj Gibson has that old man strength, so he fared better.

- Quentin Grimes scored his first professional (preseason) buckets, a pair of threes. May they be the first of many more!

The Knicks don’t play again until Wednesday. Rest, Derrick!