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Knicks 133, Grizzlies 129 (OT): “MORE LIKE STAR J BARRETT"

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What a win.

Memphis Grizzlies v New York Knicks
The man of the hour. And hopefully the next decade plus.
Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

After lollygagging through most of the first three quarters on Friday, the Knicks awoke and forced overtime before overtaking the Memphis Grizzlies, 133-129, behind an outpouring of bench scoring, combined with courageously clutch performances from Julius Randle and RJ Barrett.

The victory comes as a pleasant surprise. The Knicks trailed all night and have been ice cold (1-5 in their previous six games), while the Grizzlies have been on fire (5-1 in their prior six games). Randle and Barrett barely registered on the radar until late, but both ended the evening as heroes. The second unit, led by Derrick Rose, Immanuel Quickley and Alec Burks, was responsible for roughly 54% of New York’s offensive output (the bench scored 72 total points, including 20 from Quickley and 19 apiece from Rose and Burks).

The Knicks really did play their butt off against the Grizzlies. They’ve been playing their butt off all season. With the win, the Knicks are 26-27 on the year and eighth in the Eastern Conference, one game ahead of the Indiana Pacers. The playoffs remain a real possibility. Maybe most importantly, RJ Barrett dominated down the stretch, defeating the player selected one spot ahead of him in the 2019 NBA draft, Ja Morant.

One could perhaps be forgiven if, after the first quarter, they decided it would be best not to spend their entire Friday night watching the Knicks, so they turned off the television and instead sat staring at their phone for hours until falling asleep on the couch and then waking up in a panic because they weren’t in their bed, before realizing where they were and laughing at themselves for being so silly.

The Knicks shot 37% from the field in the first, had 5 turnovers and didn’t achieve much on the defensive end, allowing the Grizzlies to score 35 points on 54% shooting, including 3-5 from three. The starting five was lackluster, and Randle wasn’t looking to score.

Luckily, the Knicks have a former MVP who plays backup point guard and can still carry the load now and again. If not for D-Rose notching 9 points in just under nine minutes off the bench in the quarter, the Knicks may have found themselves down 20 or more after the first. Instead, the deficit was 12.

The bench somewhat steadied the ship in the second, although the Knicks continued to trail and weren’t really biting into the lead. Memphis hit another 5 of 9 threes, but New York received contributions from every which way; all 10 Knicks who played in the second quarter scored at least one point, led by everyone’s favorite backcourt bench duo, Quickley (7 points on 3-3 shooting) and Rose (4 points, 2 assists).

The Knicks were down 9 at the break, 60-51. It felt like the Grizzlies were in control, though, and Randle and Barrett had combined for just 6 points on 1-8 from the field.

The third quarter was a lot like the second, in that the Knicks didn’t exactly play poorly, but they couldn’t quite make a dent. This time around, nine Knicks scored instead of 10 (only Alec Burks didn’t get on the board). IQ and Rose were once again among the guys getting buckets (6 and 4 points apiece, respectively), and Elfrid Payton had himself a nifty little stretch in an otherwise forgettable effort, pouring in 7 points on 3-5 shooting.

The Grizzlies kept up the grind, however, including getting 14 points from Morant, which seemed like a harbinger of doom after the 2019 second overall pick struggled in the first half with just 6 points. But just before you could officially count New York out, Quickley buried a huge three to cut the deficit down to below double digits.

Heading into the fourth — and at the time presumably final — period, the Knicks were down by seven, 90-83. The Grizzlies spent the early portion of the fourth building their lead, which reached as high as 15 at one point. With less than five minutes to play, the Memphis lead was 10, and a Ja Morant block of RJ Barrett threatened to turn tonight’s dreams into nightmares.

That’s when Barrett and Randle woke up, a slumbering giant ready to stomp around the city. RJ scored five straight points, and then a Randle bucket cut the lead to six with 3:40 to go.

Not long after, Randle muscled his way in for an and-one that brought the Knicks within three.

RJ proceeded to expertly draw a foul on a corner three and sink each free throw, tying the game with 37 seconds remaining. After Morant hit one of two free throws on the other end, Tom Thibodeau called timeout. The Knicks, down 113-112 with 26.1 to go, had a chance to take their first lead since the score was 3-1. Walt Clyde Frazier noted New York was “on the threshold of glory or purgatory.”

Randle received the ball and made his way into the lane, spinning one too many times before going up and missing a bunny. Taj Gibson fouled out by grabbing Jonas Valanciunas, who hit the first free throw.

Then, this happened:

Barrett’s heroics sent the game into overtime. The Knicks have only played one other overtime game this season, losing by one to the 76ers. This one would end on a happier note, thanks to 9 points in the extra period from Burks, plus big plays from RJ and Randle.

A Julius Randle three gave the Knicks their first lead since the first quarter, and the teams traded baskets for a minute or two, before Barrett put the Knicks up for good by draining a three to give New York a 127-124 advantage.

In the end, the Knicks grabbed this game right out of the Grizzlies’ grubby paws, winning 133-129. It felt good.

Notes:

> Randle seemed slightly off for most of the night, but he finished with his fifth triple double of the season (15 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds). All five triple doubles have come in the last 14 games, and he’s only three behind the franchise all-time leader in triple doubles for a season, Walt Clyde Frazier, who set the mark with eight.

> Late in overtime, Julius Randle provoked Valanciunas into a huge lane violation with a slight twitch that caused the Memphis center to leap into the lane way too early. It was like a linebacker drawing his defender offside. Savvy stuff from Julius.

> The crowd rained boos upon Grayson Allen when he fouled out, which served as a reminder of one of the most important aspects of live sports that has been missed during the pandemic: boos.

> Frank Ntilikina sighting! The Frenchman got to play the last 4.6 seconds of overtime. With him on the court, the Knicks won the game. Coincidence?

Man, what a turnaround this night turned out to be. Exhilaration. Huge win. Much needed. As Jesus and Ham on Rye exclaimed, “MORE LIKE STAR J BARRETT”

The Knicks will try to keep it going against the Raptors on Sunday. Have a great weekend, y’all!