RJ Barrett (305192)
Credit: Bill Moore photo

The Knicks opened their 2021 preseason schedule at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night, defeating the Indiana Pacers by 125-104.

Before then, the last time the Knicks played a game at MSG, Trae Young made the building his personal playground, scoring 36 points and adding nine assists in leading the Atlanta Hawks to a 103-89 win in Game 5 of the opening round of the NBA playoffs. The Knicks were eliminated 4-1 that June 2 night. It was a painful ending to an otherwise surprisingly successful season.

They far exceeded expectations by finishing 41-31 and earning the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. But their struggles in the franchise’s first postseason appearance since 2013 left them disappointed and looking to come back more equipped. The Knicks added shooting guard Evan Fournier and point guard Kemba Walker to bolster the backcourt and provide quality depth at both positions. The Bronx native Walker was excited to play his first game as a Knick in front of the home crowd.

“It was special to be honest,” he said to the MSG Network in an interview on the Garden court after the game. “Just to see that New York across my chest. Being from here, it’s like a dream come true.”

The 31-year-old veteran can be a positive influence on younger players such as third-year guard/forward RJ Barrett, who made notable improvements last year after the ups and downs of his rookie season. Barrett played 25 minutes against the Pacers, scoring 17 points on 7-14 shooting. Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau sees from Barrett a continuation of his unrelenting work ethic.

“His commitment is special,” said Thibodeau following Tuesday’s game. “He’s a great kid. Hard worker. Disciplined. He’ll keep getting better. He’s only 21. But he’s putting a lot of work into the game.”

The Knicks next face the Washington Wizards this Saturday on the road, and are at home next Wednesday and Friday to play the Detroit Pistons and Wizards respectively.