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After shooting 0-for-8 from beyond the arc against the Raptors on Thursday night in Tampa, sinking to 0-for-21 across his past four games, RJ Barrett returned to the scene of the crime.
It was New Year’s Eve and midnight was approaching, but the Knicks guard went back on the court and stayed there for an hour putting up shots to try to snap out of his recent funk.
“I went in and shot after the game. I spent time shooting [Friday] and today,” Barrett said Saturday morning after a shootaround in Indiana before the Knicks took on the Pacers. “I’m just trying to get my groove back, just get back in it. But I’m sure I’ll be good.”
Barrett had plenty of company in firing blanks from the 3-point line in Thursday’s 100-83 loss to the Raptors — Reggie Bullock shot 0-for-9, the Knicks’ starting lineup shot 0-for-23 and the team shot a franchise-record-low 3-for-36.
But though he did spend extra time shooting since Thursday’s rough outing, Barrett didn’t sound like he was spending too much time thinking about what went wrong for himself or his teammates.
“We had one bad shooting night as a team,” he said. “Every team has them. You just can’t dwell on it. We have another game today and that’s what we gotta focus on.”
The Knicks did enter Thursday’s game leading the league by shooting 45.9 percent from 3 through their first four games. The chilly night in Tampa dropped them down to 13th (36.6 percent) entering Saturday’s game against the Pacers.
The sample size is still small, but the Knicks faced questions entering the season about their 3-point shooting after ranking 27th last year (33.7 percent). Two of the players they brought in over the offseason that figured to help their 3-point shooting, veteran guard Alec Burks and rookie guard Immanuel Quickley, both missed Thursday’s game.
Burks shot 10-for-15 from deep in his first three games before suffering a sprained ankle while Quickley, whom coach Tom Thibodeau said could “shoot the ball as well as anyone in the league,” was expected to return Saturday night from the hip pointer he sustained in the season opener.
Barrett shot 32 percent from 3 in his rookie season last year, then went 3-for-3 from deep during his hot-shooting season opener against the Pacers. Since then, though, he hadn’t hit a single 3 while shooting 25.8 percent from the floor.
“I’m gonna keep shooting,” Barrett said. “I’m getting open shots, I just gotta knock them down.”
Barrett said the different shooting backgrounds this year — with little or no fans in attendance — wasn’t affecting him. The Knicks had played their previous two games before Saturday with limited fans in the seats, but their other three games were played in empty arenas.
Despite Barrett’s shooting woes, the second-year pro from Duke said he wasn’t trying to change anything heading into Saturday’s rematch with the Pacers.
“You don’t tweak anything, you just try to get back to your regular routine,” he said. “Try to break it down and get to all your key points. You don’t really change anything too much.”
The 3-point shooting slump Barrett was in entering Saturday was worse than any he had experienced during his rookie year. He did go four straight games without hitting a 3 last February, but only put up 11 attempts during that stretch.
“Definitely I feel like I’ve learned a lot coming into Year 2,” Barrett said. “Every defense is kind of different but I’m going game-to-game just trying to play basketball.”