Judging by the sounds from the broadcast, Friday nights at Madison Square Garden can get pretty rowdy. I’ve never had the pleasure but maybe some loyal P&T readers will start a GoFundMe to send your intrepid blogger to the World’s Most Famous Arena.
The home crowd witnessed a wild Knicks (18-15) game tonight, and yet 44 points from RJ Barrett couldn’t offset the team’s 15-of-26 performance at the free throw line in a 118-117 loss to the Chicago Bulls (13-18).
Sloppiness on both ends defined the first frame. New York coughed up the ball four times in the first eight minutes and allowed Zach LaVine to score 12 points in a first quarter they lost 29-22. Chicago’s Demar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic, and Goran Dragic earned their pay, too, combining for 37 first-half points. Here DeRozan pokes the ball (and RJ’s eye, allegedly), then serves up an alley oop for Andre Drummond. Boo.
Pre-intermission, the Knicks went down by seven points but fought back. Isaiah Hartenstein, sharing the floor with Jericho Sims, finally connected on a corner three; Immanuel Quickley continued his recent inspired play; and RJ Barrett muscled his way to 26 points and seven rebounds in the first half.
Mr. Maple was an unstoppable force, scoring hard fought points in the paint and swishing from deep, going 7-11 from the field and 4-4 from deep in the first two frames. C’mon Grinches, put RJ Barrett on your All-Star ballot!
Thanks to RJ’s heroics, timely contributions from Julius Randle, and a reduction in turnovers, the Knicks eeked out a halftime lead, 60-58. Both teams had shot over 52% from the field and 56% from deep.
The game was tight throughout the post-meridian, and RJ kept percolating, canning more threes and posterizing Vooch:
Chicago neutralized Mitchell Robinson for most of the night, but New York still won the battle of the boards, 47-41. Jalen Brunson was quiet tonight, too, although it’s weird to deem a 12 point, nine assist performance “quiet.” Even with a drag to his step, JB still does this.
New York held a one-point lead with three minutes left, and the game was tied with two to go. Julius, RJ, and Quentin Grimes all missed freebies, and RJ committed a head-scratcher of an offensive foul. So many chances to put this game away...they simply didn’t.
With six seconds left, Brunson—who had been shooting 89% from the stripe this season—went 0-for-2 from the foul line with a one-point lead. Chicago took possession. Out of a time out, DeRozan went at Grimes for one of his automatic mid-range shots and got fouled.
Noteworthy: Julius Randle contributed a brawny 29 points and 12 rebounds on 11-of-22 from the field and 5-of-10 from deep. Immanuel Quickley scored 15 points tonight and has averaged 19 over his last three games.
But RJ was the team leader tonight and logged the second-highest point total of his career. His final statline: 44 points, seven boards, and four dimes while shooting 14-of-20 from the field, 6-of-6 from deep, and 10-of-13 from the line.
The Knicks are 5-4 in Friday night games and 8-9 at home. Tough loss. Recap to come.