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Knicks’ RJ Barrett in awful shooting slump after sizzling start

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RJ Barrett started the new season afire, nailing his first nine shots from the floor, including all three of his three-point attempts, in the Knicks’ opening loss in Indiana.

Tom Thibodeau’s team will return to that locale Saturday night, and Barrett will look to rediscover that shooting touch after his percentages have dramatically plummeted in the four-plus games thereafter.

The second-year guard hardly was the lone misfiring culprit in Thursday’s 100-83 loss to Toronto in Tampa. The Knicks finished a wretched 3-for-36 from long range against the Raptors, including an NBA record 23 straight misses without one made by the starting five.

Barrett, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 draft out of Duke, has connected on just 26.3 percent (19-for-72) from the field since his sizzling start Dec. 23 against the Pacers. He also has clanked 21 consecutive attempts from beyond the three-point arc.

In fact, Barrett (0-for-8) and starting small forward Reggie Bullock (0-for-9) became the first teammates in NBA history to each go 0-for-8 or worse from three-point range in the same game.

Knicks RJ Barrett
RJ Barrett’s shooting woes continued during the Knicks’ loss to the Raptors Thursday night.
Getty Images

Barrett wasn’t made available to the media following Thursday’s game, and the Knicks (2-3) did not practice nor make anyone available on New Year’s Day ahead of Saturday’s visit to Indiana.

Thibodeau had gushed earlier in the week that Barrett “has been terrific” and “playing an all-around game” in back-to-back wins against Milwaukee and Cleveland. Despite his poor shooting numbers, the 20-year-old Barrett is averaging 15.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists through five games.

“He’s played well without shooting well. We know the shooting is coming,” Thibodeau said Wednesday. “He’s doing a lot of things for us defensively, moving well without the ball. He’s getting downhill.

“There’s a lot of room for him to grow. He’s been diligent with his work. Just having a wing to do things he can do, his versatility is a big asset for the team and willingness to make plays for people.”

Thibodeau said after Thursday’s loss that he wanted to review the game film before commenting directly on Barrett’s and the team’s poor shooting game, especially since the Knicks entered leading the league in 3-point percentage (45.9%).

“I think when teams play zone you are going to get a lot of open looks, but we’ll take a look at it,” Thibodeau said. “It’s the right play. To me, it’s like if you get the right play, if you get the movement, if you force the defense to collapse, you kick it out, and if one of your shooters is open, that’s all I go by.

“So if a guy’s wide open, there’s no one within five feet, you’ve got to shoot it.”

Even with his team firing blanks, Thibodeau noted that the Knicks led by seven points in Thursday’s third quarter — and they still were within three with under nine minutes remaining in the fourth – due to their defensive commitment. The Knicks have allowed 105.2 points per game, fifth-lowest in the NBA.

“You always think you can do better. [Toronto] didn’t shoot a great percentage. You hold a team like that to 100 points, you should have a shot to win it,” Thibodeau said. “If we would have made some of our threes, we probably would have had a good chance to win it.

“Our defense is something that we have to continue to work on — containment on the ball, ball pressure. We’re not perfect. I think if we put forth the effort, we fly around, put pressure on the ball and our weak side is aware, we can cover up [our] mistakes.”

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