Sure, I wrote that LeBron James would sit this one out. Not one to forgo primetime exposure, King James magically healed enough to make the roster sheet. Never underestimate the power of ego.
New York stormed out of the gates like Globetrotters tonight. The shots swished, the dimes shimmered, and the team cohesion was gorgeous. This sequence made me willing to absolve them of many previous sins:
The Knicks won the first quarter 42-29, their highest-scoring first frame of the season. They shot a sterling 15-for-20 from the floor, 6-for-9 from deep. At halftime, the Knicks were up 71-56. (Yes, 71.) New York lead for the entire first half, by as many as 21 points. Your heroes had 19 fast-break points in the first, compared to the Lakers’ eight. Sustainable stuff? Not usually.
After intermission, LA was better organized and employed tighter defense. The Knicks’ shooting died and their motor faltered, LeBron flexed, and Malik Monk became a three-point producing machine (he outscored the Knicks in Q3). The Lakers outscored New York 31-13 and brought an 87-84 lead into the fourth.
Monk kept sizzling, Anthony Davis is a beast, and LeBron did his usual stuff. New York missed free throws. Burks now plays like he has mononucleosis. The Laker lead swelled to nine with just over two minutes left.
The much-maligned Julius Randle didn’t give up, though, working hard for offensive boards and hitting two free throws to cut the score. Fournier delivered a corner dagger. Westbrook bricked two from the charity stripe. RJ went coast-to-coast with a brawny jam and then drilled yet another clutch triple to tie the game with 8.7 seconds left.
BARRETT... THREE-POINTER... BANG!— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) February 6, 2022
RJ BARRETT TIES THE GAME! pic.twitter.com/D3TacJVWrV
And in case you doubt how clutch the young Canadian is:
RJ Barrett is most reliable Knick in crunch time.— Ersin Demir (@EDemirNBA) February 4, 2022
He's 16-for-24 (66.7%) in 17 games in the clutch. More impressive: 7-for-11 (63.6%) from deep.
He's needs to get the most touches while closing games.
Randle needs to set him instead of taking the tough shots himself! pic.twitter.com/m93lPtVHXR
James missed a 26-footer to send the contest to overtime. Sadly, the Knicks left nothing in the tank for the bonus quarter. Worst of all, I spotted David Fizdale slinking around, playing Iago to Vogel’s Othello. A horrible image with which to end the night. Your final: 122-115.
Recap to come. Safe travels Knickerbockers.