What a difference eight days…and 26 missing points…makes.
The New York Knicks headliners played their fullest game of the season Monday night as RJ Barrett, Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle enjoyed lucrative evenings in a 129-119 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Paycom Center.
Brunson tied his career-high regular-season 34 points on 14 of 20 shots from the field and dished out nine assists, including two alley-oops on Barrett and Jericho Sims, silencing the crowd to round things out. The former had his best night of the season by far, breaking out of a prolonged shooting slump with 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting, including 3-of-4 from three-point range. Although he also missed a double-double, Randle finished the job by matching Barrett’s 25 points and 11 rebounds.
The trio’s show, further aided by 18 points for Immanuel Quickley and 15 total rebounds for Sims and Isaiah Hartenstein, allowed the Knicks (9-9) to emerge from a five-game Western swing with a 3-2 record, which included victories over Utah and Denver at the start. New York also retaliated for an embarrassing 145-135 loss that handed The Thunder (7-10) a win at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 13.
Monday’s matchup got off to an eerily similar start to the Manhattan edition, with the Knicks leading 38-34 after the first 12 minutes and falling 10 points short of the franchise record that had all but been forgotten. Barrett and Quickley each had nine points and combined to sink 7-of-7 from the field and shoot their way out of cold spells: Barrett was particularly shaky, coming into play when he shot just 27 percent from the field in the field’s first four games Trip.
Unlike the Thunder’s visit to New York, the Knicks’ defense collapsed in the second quarter and launched a 14-3 run in the middle stages that saw Oklahoma City shoot 0-of-10 from the field. While Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had another strong evening for the Thunder, leaving them with 30 points, a significant chunk of that came from the foul line.
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In other adjustments to recent losses, the Knicks cleaned up their action on the glass, overtaking Oklahoma City 48-38 after losing Sunday’s plank battle in Phoenix 21. Defensive success was evident in the third quarter as well: the Thunder came with a league-best 4.2-point differential in the third frame, but the Knicks went out of the period with a tie despite a late onslaught that reduced their long lead to seven out.
New York’s win came without the services of guards Cam Reddish (groin) and Derrick Rose (toe), both plagued by injuries. Quentin Grimes again took over from Reddish’s starting position of fifth, while Miles McBride earned Rose’s minutes.
To build on the positive momentum developed during the trip, the Knicks will begin an extended vacation through Thanksgiving. They return to action Friday night against the Portland Trail Blazers (7:30 p.m. ET, MSG).
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags
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