New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau revealed the reason why All-Star forward RJ Barrett played just two minutes in the second half of Sunday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“We just got behind by so much that we were just looking for life,” Thibodeau said. “The group that was in there gave us a little bit of a spark. So that’s what we went with.”
Though three Knicks players finished the night with 20 or more points and six broke double digits against the Thunder, and the team found ways to shoot 33 free throws, New York was unable to recover from the 37 points scored by guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City’s ability to shoot 54% from the 3-point line or the absence of center Mitchell Robinson.
RJ Barrett finished the night with four total points while shooting 20% from the field, the fourth-year guard’s worst scoring performance since a 104-96 win by the Charlotte Hornets last November. Barrett was limited to 26 minutes in the mid-November matchup after he shot 1-9 from the field and grabbed two personal fouls, leaving the Knicks to rely on guard Kemba Walker and now-Detroit Piston Alec Burks for a majority of the team’s scoring.
Even with the lack of offensive options, the team’s defense seemed to be the most prominent issue for the 12-year NBA head coach last November, doing all he could to keep himself from repeating the time-old phrase from Hall-of-Fame Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Bear Bryant as he talked to the media in a postgame conference.
“There’s no surprise into why you win or why you lose. To me, it’s your defense,” Tom Thibodeau said. “Initially the defense was good and the rebounding was good. Then the problem became our turnovers.”
The Knicks will tip off next against the Utah Jazz at 9 p.m. EST next Tuesday in Vivint Arena. The game can be streamed on MSG Go.