After the New York Knicks lost Game 2 of their first round NBA Playoffs series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Stephen A. Smith called for the team to bench RJ Barrett for the remainder of the series on ESPN’s First Take. After playing a big role in the Knicks’ wins in games three and four, Barrett said he heart Stephen A. Smith’s criticism, and responded to it ahead of Game 5 on Wednesday.
“He’s going to talk about whatever he wants to talk about, good or bad,” RJ Barrett said, via Zach Braziller of the New York Post.
According to Braziller, Barrett has not heard much of what Stephen A. Smith has said since then. With wins in games three and four, and Barrett playing a big role in both of those wins, Smith sang his praises on ESPN broadcasts.
In the 99-79 Game 3 win, Barrett scored 19 with four assists and eight rebounds. He played even better in the 102-93 Game 4 win, scoring 26 with two rebounds and an assist. He picked up the slack for Julius Randle, who played poorly enough to get benched during the game.
Continued high-quality play from Barrett would go a long way toward the Knicks advancing to the second round of the NBA Playoffs for the first time since 2013, especially if Julius Randle is playing on a compromised ankle, like many believe.
Barrett and Jalen Brunson did the heavy-lifting on offense in games three and four. The Knicks will need Jalen Brunson to show up again if they hope to close out the series in Game 5 on the road in Cleveland. Another good performance from Barrett would be a welcomed sight for Knicks fans, who are still holding out hope that the 22-year-old can become an important long-term piece for the team.