The Knicks can view their recent five-game road trip as a success. They went 3-2 after ending the seven-day slate versus Western Conference opponents with a 129-119 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday. The Knicks lost to the Thunder 145-135 at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 13, their final game at home before beginning the trip.
They opened the block of games out West with back-to-back wins against the Utah Jazz (118-111) and Denver Nuggets (106-103) on Nov. 15 and 16 respectively, then losses to the Golden State Warriors (111-101) last Friday and Phoenix Suns (116-95) on Sunday.
The Knicks are back at the Garden tomorrow to host the Portland Trailblazers followed by a matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies at home on Sunday night. The Knicks will face the Detroit Pistons on the road on Tuesday before a quick 24-hour turnaround and a Wednesday night date at MSG with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Point guard Jalen Bruson continued his superlative season with a 34-point, nine assists performance against the Thunder, shooting 14-20 and doing all of his work with a lethal mid-range barrage and crafty shot making at the rim. All six of Brunson’s misses were on 3-point attempts, as he went 1-6 from behind the arc. On the season, Brunson is averaging 20.8 points on 49.6% field goal shooting and 88.6% from the foul line.
Additionally, the 26-year-old from Villanova is posting 6.7 assists per game. Julius Randle and RJ Barrett had 25 points each against the Thunder as the Knicks improved their record to 9-9 and were ninth in the Eastern Conference standings when the NBA schedule tipped-off last night (Wednesday).
“I thought they played well off of each other and made a number of good plays to get everyone going and create quality shots for each other,” said Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau after the Thunder win. “When you have that type of balanced attack, I think it’s hard to key in on one particular guy.”
The victory against the Thunder was an exhaling game for Barrett. The fourth-year pro has had struggles with his efficiency this season. The Knicks’ front office, led by team president Leon Rose and head coach Tom Thibodeau, are hoping to see Barrett elevate his overall output on both ends of the court.
Although Barrett averaged 20 points per game last season, he shot just .408 overall from the field, 34.2% on 3-point shots, and 71.4% from the foul line. In 18 games this season the 23-year-old Barrett is at 40.3% on 16 attempts per game and 27.3% on 3-pointers, taking an average of 5.5 but making just 1.5 per game. His foul shooting has improved to 76.7%. Before going 10-16 versus the Suns, Barrett was a combined 9-30 against the Warriors and Suns.