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Knicks 121, Spurs 109: ‘I think RJ slept in the gym over the weekend after Thibs’ comments’

The Knicks rode a hot shooting night to a blowout victory in San Antonio

New York Knicks v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

The New York Knicks came into this game against the San Antonio Spurs desperate for a victory they hadn’t seen in their last three tries. In one of their best offensive showings in a long time, they accomplished that mission, emerging with a 121-109 win.

Both teams scored 28 points through 12 minutes of play but took vastly different routes to get there. RJ Barrett and Alec Burks led the way for the Knicks with 7 points apiece while the team shot a perfect 8-of-8 from the free-throw line. San Antonio had five players score at least four points and shot 4-of-9 on threes as a team.

After struggling from beyond the arc in the first quarter, New York hit six triples in the second en route to a 34-point performance and a 6-point lead heading into the halftime break. Barrett continued his scoring binge with 12 points in the quarter on a perfect 3-of-3 mark from downtown.

Those outside makes were particularly encouraging for Barrett given the deep slump he’s been in so far this season that’s seen his 3-point efficiency drop below his rookie season when he shot 32.0 percent. Tom Thibodeau had some simple advice for the 3rd-year win to regain the rhythm he displayed last season.

“So get back in the gym, get back to grooving your shot,” Thibs said. “Shoot a lot of 3s and you’ll start making more.”

Despite being swapped out of the starting lineup in favor of Nerlens Noel, Mitchell Robinson didn’t let the demotion bring him down, providing tremendous energy off the bench in the first half with seven offensive rebounds and two blocks in just over 11 minutes.

That 6-point lead was extended to 14 in the third quarter on the backbone of eight made triples, three of which came from Julius Randle. Barrett scored another seven points to give him 29 through three quarters. Robinson was part of a scary collision with under a minute remaining in the quarter but stayed in the game.

The Spurs cut New York’s lead to single-digits at one point in the fourth quarter, but the Knicks finished out the game strong to ultimately come away with their first victory in San Antonio in seven years, snapping their 3-game losing streak in the process.

Barrett led the way with a game-high 32 points on 7-of-8 shooting from downtown. Perhaps Thib’s advice resonated with his teammates, as the Knicks shot 18-of-38 from beyond the arc as a team in this one. As P&T’er Headband RJ noted, the kid must’ve slept in the gym following Thibs’ comments on his shooting.

Five other Knicks scored in double figures, including three members of the second unit. Robinson was one of them, finishing with 11 points, 14 rebounds, and three blocks in 22 minutes off the bench. Immanuel Quickley scored 16. He and Robinson were tied with a team-high plus-13. Derrick Rose also chipped in 12 points.

Julius Randle spoke about the team needing to look in the mirror after the Nuggets loss. He struggled shooting the ball in this game at 5-of-12 from the field. But he did contribute seven rebounds and seven assists (to just one turnover) and his trio of 3-pointers in the third quarter helped push New York’s lead back up to double digits.

The 109 points scored by the Spurs was a step in the right direction for the Knicks’ defense, considering that it was the fewest they’d allowed since giving up 90 points in the win over Atlanta last week.

“We’ve just got to fight. At the end of the day, all the X’s and O’s, all that doesn’t matter,” Barrett had said after the blowout home loss to Denver. “If we’re gonna play defense, we’ve got to fight and fight together for the whole game and do whatever it takes to win.”

San Antonio was led in scoring by Derrick White, who scored 26 points to go along with seven assists and six rebounds. Keldon Johnson left the game after 15 minutes and didn’t return after spraining his ankle.

The Knicks will have an immediate chance to keep their momentum going as they head to Indiana to take on the Pacers on Wednesday night while the Spurs will play the first of a mini two-game baseball-style series at home against Denver on Thursday.