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RJ Barrett’s struggles continue as Knicks lose to Hornets

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The wins have dried up as surely as the shots have stopped falling for the Knicks. Three consecutive misfiring losses have canceled out whatever early buzz was generated by the preceding three-game winning streak.

RJ Barrett and the Knicks endured yet another wayward shooting night, while offseason-target Gordon Hayward torched them with 28 of his game-high 34 points in the first half of a 109-88 loss Monday to the Hornets in Charlotte.

The Knicks (5-6) missed nine of their first 10 field-goal attempts and shot just 39.5 percent from the field overall. That included a 5-for-18 showing — and five straight misses from 3-point range — by Barrett, who finished with 11 points.

The No. 3-overall pick in the 2019 draft is shooting just 36.5 percent for the season and 18.0 percent from long distance, connecting on nine of 50 attempts.

“I think it will eventually come,” Thibodeau said about Barrett before the game. “I think as long as he’s taking the right ones, it’s a big part of the NBA game, I think, understanding the value of those shots.

“But there are a lot of other things he does well. We want him to play an all-around game. He can post the ball, he can drive the ball well. And I think as time goes on he’ll shoot the ball better and better from the perimeter.”

RJ Barrett dribbles the ball up the court.
AP

Rookie point guard Immanuel Quickley’s recent slump also continued with a 1-for-9 shooting night in 28 minutes off the bench; he’s totaled just 10 points on 2-for-24 shooting over his last four games.

Kevin Knox netted 17 of his season-high 19 points in the first half, while Austin Rivers started in place of Reggie Bullock — the first lineup change in 11 games under Thibodeau — and finished with 13. Julius Randle (2-for-9) netted a season-low 11 points.

Impressive rookie point guard LaMelo Ball scored only eight points on 3-for-13 shooting for Charlotte (6-5), but he also contributed 14 rebounds, seven assists and three steals in the Hornets’ fourth straight win.

The Knicks came in shooting 39.1 percent from the floor and 31.3 percent (6-for-21) from 3-point range in their previous two losses after connecting on at least 50 percent of their attempts in each game of the three-game winning streak.

“I think when you struggle sometimes to make shots, it takes away from the other aspects of the game,” Thibodeau said. “But we’ve been a very unselfish team. Some nights, the ball’s going to go in, some nights it won’t.

“But we have to do all of the other things to put ourselves in position to win.”

Thibodeau knew coming in that his team needed to rediscover its shooting touch and play representative defense against Hornets, who have improved with the additions of Hayward, their $120 million offseason sign-and-trade acquisition, and Ball, the No. 3-overall pick in the draft.

Thibodeau gushed about both opposing players, noting of Hayward that the Knicks had him “rated pretty high” among free agent targets in the offseason.

The former Utah and Boston star scorched the Knicks for 28 points in the first half on 8 of 12 shooting and 10 straight successful free-throw attempts. The Knicks spotted Charlotte the first 10 points of the game and trailed by as many as 17 in the first quarter.

Knox kept the Knicks close by nailing five of his eight attempts from long range, finishing the half with 17, for a 57-50 Charlotte lead at intermission.

Still, the Knicks committed 10 of their 16 turnovers in the first two quarters, and aside from Knox, the rest of the team was 1-for-13 from 3-point range. Hayward scored only four points in the third, but the Hornets extended their lead to 82-68 entering the final quarter.

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