Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
One possession after shooting an airball on a 3-pointer, RJ Barrett had the ball in his hands, Knicks up one, with 20 seconds to go. He drove left on PJ Tucker and finished over him, giving New York a 3-point lead with 8 seconds to play.
Barrett's bucket and Frank Ntilikina's defense against Russell Westbrook on the game's final play sealed a surprising win for New York.
It also underscored one of the most important qualities Barrett's showed in his rookie season: a seemingly unshakeable confidence.
"From the time that we started working with him in Las Vegas at Summer League, he has never wavered on his confidence in knowing what he can do and wanting to make plays," Knicks interim coach Mike Miller said after the Knicks' win over Houston. "He has that in him…. He doesn't worry about the last play, he doesn't get caught up in it. Sometimes the best thing you can have is a bad memory."
That quality will probably come in handy for Barrett in New York. The scrutiny in this city - for this team - is intense. But, by all accounts, the rookie is well-equipped to handle it.
Barrett, the No. 3 overall pick, had one of his best games as a pro in team president Leon Rose's first day on the job. He had 27 points (10-18 shooting), five assists and five rebounds to help lift New York.
Sometimes, when new team executives take over, they have less allegiance to a previous regimes draft picks. Rose has to evaluate players like Barrett, Ntlikina, Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson on his own to determine their futures in New York.
But he had to like what he saw from Barrett on Monday.
NTLIKINA KNEW WHAT WESTRBOOK WAS DOING: Ntilikina made a big defensive stop on Westbrook on Houston's final possession on Monday. The third-year guard said after the game that he knew what was coming.
Here's how he described it: "We anticipated their play. They had a successful play on the timeout before where Russ and James got really high (on the floor) and Russ caught the ball and attacked the basket. We kind of adjusted and my thought was to make him change direction. I didn't want him to make an easy layup. He took that shot and missed it. It was a good shot for him, he missed it and we won."
Ntilikina hasn't played with consistency on the offensive end during his first three years in the league, but he's routinely showed that he can defend the perimeter at a high level. That's certainly a valuable trait for a young player. It will be interesting to see how Rose proceeds with Ntilikina. The 22-year-old has been shopped in potential trades at different times in his Knicks tenure.