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Knicks start slow, finish strong behind 32 from Barrett to beat Thunder

New York Knicks vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MARCH 13: RJ Barrett #9 of the New York Knicks drives to the basket against the Oklahoma City Thunder on March 13, 2021 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

OKLAHOMA CITY — RJ Barrett scored a career-high 32 points and Julius Randle netted a triple-double to lead the New York Knicks past the Oklahoma City Thunder 119-97 on Saturday.

The Knicks trailed by nine after one quarter with the Thunder shooting 70.6% from the floor, but they outscored the Thunder 97-66 over the final 36 minutes.

Al Horford had 16 points to lead seven Oklahoma City players in double figures.

The Knicks overcame the deficit by forcing 18 turnovers while committing just 10 of their own. New York also outrebounded Oklahoma City 45-40 and grabbed seven more offensive boards than the Thunder.

“Obviously, we started the game slowly,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “That was a big concern, particularly with the early start. But we responded well after that, and I thought we played strong in the second half. I thought our willingness to share the ball, once we got our defense going, it got us into the open floor and we were able to get some good scoring opportunities.”

The Knicks were coming off their worst defensive performance of the season, a 134-101 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday. Following a challenging opening quarter, the Knicks held the Thunder to just 42.4% from the floor in the last three periods.

“In Milwaukee, we weren’t really us,” Barrett said. “We didn’t feel like we played as hard as we could. Today, we just tried to show who we are. Just be tough on both ends of the floor.”

The Thunder, missing leading scorer Shai Gilgeous Alexander, started fast with Luguentz Dort scoring eight of his 14 points in the first frame.

The Thunder couldn’t sustain their pace though, and the Knicks took command in the second quarter, outscoring Oklahoma City 34-23 to take a two-point lead into halftime.

Oklahoma City briefly retook the lead at the start of the third quarter, but it wouldn’t last. Barrett knocked down a 3-pointer with 10:19 left in the quarter and the Knicks led the rest of the way.

Randle, who posted 26 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists, became the first Knick to post two triple-doubles in the same season since Mark Jackson in the 1988-89 season.

When asked about the accomplishment, Thibodeau was admittedly surprised it had been that long since a Knick notched two triple-doubles in the same season, but he complimented the first-time All-Star’s play in his seventh NBA season.

“Julius had a monster game,” Thibodeau said. “To score the way he did, the assists, the all-around play, I think that’s what leaders do. This season, the numbers speak for themselves, but his impact on winning is huge. His leadership has been terrific.”

Oklahoma City’s 7-foot-2 center, Moses Brown, played a career-high 27 minutes off the bench and frequently drew attention from the Knicks’ defense in the low post

“It’s only his second real game of NBA minutes, and he continues to be pretty productive and a factor,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “It was interesting to see the amount of bodies that they committed to him on the offensive end.”

Brown nearly posted a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds in just his second game since he was called up from his G-League assignment with the Oklahoma City Blue.